THOR–As we mentioned last time, at the recent Cable and Satellite Show in London, SES’s Market Development Manager, Torben Rasmussen, gave a talk about “The Astra Satellite System, services and features for the Nordic Market”. Unfortunately, all of the Nordic services have moved off Astra to the Swedish and Norwegian satellite positions at 5 degrees East and 1 degree West. Torben Rasmussen said Nordic broadcasters would want to return to Astra because they could extend their coverage to greater parts of Europe than they can from the Nordic satellites.
This doesn’t really seem all that plausible, especially after the launch of Norway’s Thor 3 satellite, on a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral on June 9. It is expected to open new markets for owner Telenor in Central and Eastern Europe, as the satellite’s footprint reaches 18 European countries.
Among the first broadcasters moving onto Thor 3 will be British Sky Broadcasting, and Sweden’s Viasat, part of the Kinnevik group, both of which will broadcast in analog form. Telenor expects to fill 50 percent of Thor 3’s capacity by the end of this year.
Broadcasters on the aging German TV-Sat (Kinnevik’s TV1000 Cinema and the History Channel, and Kinnevik’s 3+ Danmark), also at 1 degree West, will also be moving to Thor 3. There will also be new digital services to the Nordic market, such as home shopping, video-on-demand, and fast Internet access. Altogether, the satellite will carry more than 70 digital TV channels. (Reuters, “Dagens Nyheter”, Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
When it joins Thors 1 and 2 and Intelsat 707 at 1 degree West, Thor 3 will transmit on 14 transponders between 11.7 and 12.5 GHz:
11.727 GHz Sky News and Documentaries (D2-MAC)
11.747 TVG Danmark and 3+ Danmark (D2-MAC)
11.823 TV1000 Cinema and History Channel (D2-MAC)
12.054 Sky Entertainment (D2-MAC)
12.228 Sky Entertainment
12.322 TV Buttik Norway
These are in MPEG-2 unless specified as D2-MAC. Most of these channels are due to start on August 1, 1998.
(Stefan Hagedorn’s “TAB-Frequenzlisten”)
Telenor, which is now Europe’s third largest satellite operator, after Eutelsat and Astra, exhibited at the Cable and Satellite Show, presenting their Conax encryption system. I talked to the Managing Director of Telenor Conax, Öystein Larsen, and asked him why Telenor persisted with Conax, when most of Europe was using Viaccess as a more or less standard. You can hear his reply in today’s program.
Denmark’s Star TV has ended its transmissions in clear D2-MAC on Thor 2 on 11.389 GHz, and clear MPEG-2 on Intelsat 707 on 11.592 GHz, and is now only found in clear MPEG-2 on Sirius on 12.437 GHz. (“SATCO DX”)
SIRIUS–Telenor’s satellites at 1 degree West compete with those at Sweden’s position at 5 degrees East. The most recent is Sirius 2, which is shared between the Nordic Satellite Corporation NSAB and GE Americom from the United States. At the Cable and Satellite Show, I asked the Director of Market Development for GE Americom in Europe, Paul McGhee, how the sharing works, and you can hear that interview in today’s program.
The Swedish business channel TV8 has ended its D2-MAC broadcasts on Sirius 2, and is digital only on 12.245 GHz. It has been replaced on 12.207 GHz with MTV Nordic in D2-MAC. MTV Nordic was to leave Thor 2 on June 14. MTV Nordic is also on Intelsat 605 (27.5 degrees West) as part of BT’s MPEG-2 package on 11.661 GHz. (“SATCO DX” and Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
TCC–A number of American satellite television channels have been disappearing from Europe. Most recently the Knowledge Channel from the Jones Education Network went off the air. It had been transmitting digitally via Astra, and was part of the digital cable offerings here in Sweden. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
Other American channels that have disappeared in recent months include the Weather Channel, Country Music Television, and The Childrens Channel. The Nordic service of TCC continued after the English version left Astra, but was officially supposed to close on May 25th. That date TCC Nordic did disappear from cable systems here in Sweden, but the channel remains on satellite on Thor 1, sharing a transponder in D2- MAC with the Discovery Channel on 11.938 GHz. Much of the content is in English, which may be why British cable networks have continued to relay TCC Nordic.
DIGITAL PAY-TV–According to reports, the Swedish government is leaning towards letting public broadcaster Swedish Television go forward with its longheld plan to start a pay-TV channel when digital terrestrial broadcasting begins here in the new year. As late as last November the government rejected the plan, by stating that all of SVT’s programs should be available to those who pay the annual licence fee. Now the head of parliament’s Culture Committee, Åke Gustavsson, a leading Social Democrat in media questions, has indicated his personal opinion is that the party may be changing its position. This follows the recommendation from a parliamentary commission that one of the coming Swedish terrestrial digital channels be allocated for a pay service from Canal Plus. Åke Gustavsson says that if the first terrestrial digital channels launch at the beginning of 1999, the next set of channels should go on the air six months later. (“Dagens Nyheter”)
NORDIC SATELLITE CHANNEL–The public service TV channels of the Nordic countries are planning to launch a joint satellite pay channel in the Fall of 1999. Called Nordik, the channel would relay regular terrestrial programming, with half from Sweden’s SVT, the rest from Norway’s NRK, Denmark’s DR, Finland’s YLE, the new Swedish channel Kunskaps-TV (“Knowledge TV”) and the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR, which currently relays its programs on SVT 1 and 2). UR says the rumors of its upcoming demise are greatly exaggerated. (“Public Access Nyhetsbrev”)
BRITAIN–Starting June 10 British viewers can take a sneak peek at the BBC’s planned digital TV services, via a World Cup-related sports service at selected sights around the country. The widescreen service is being shown off at Heathrow airport lounges, a handful of county shows, and a giant video screen in London’s Trocadero complex through- out the soccer championships. Later this month, the BBC also plans to start transmitting its BBC 1 and 2 channels, the new BBC News 24, and a new BBC Choice preview channel in widescreen format via satellite. Those transmissions will coincide with British Sky Broadcasting’s launch later this month of its 200 channel digital satellite service. (Reuters)
On June 5 the BBC said it had signed a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting to carry all four of the above channels as part of the BSkyB digital service, Sky Digital. The public broadcaster will pay BSkyB an undisclosed amount for the digital relays, because regulatory rules exempt the satellite broadcaster from having to carry BBC channels. The BBC channels will be free and not part of BSkyB’s subscription package. Stereo versions of BBC Radios 1-5 are also included in the deal. In future months the BBC will start further free digital services via Sky Digital, including an educational channel called BBC Learning and a digital text service. (Reuters and “Wall Street Journal”)
A BSkyB spokesman says Sky Digital will be offered this month to subscribers who have been with Sky the longest, while other customers will be targeted later this Summer, followed by non-subscribers in the Fall. (Reuters) Presumably this is because of the shortage of digital decoder boxes.
IRELAND–BSkyB also has plans to screen separate commercials for Ireland, which is causing concern at TV3, a new terrestrial channel due to go on the air in Ireland in the Fall. Digital technology will apparently make it easier to broadcast separate commercials in Sky One and Sky News to subscribers in Ireland. (“Irish Times”)
GERMANY–Rupert Murdoch says he wants to increase his stake in the German satellite television channel Vox. Murdoch already owns 49.9 percent of the channel, so any increasing would mean a controlling interest. Speaking to reporters at a media conference in Bonn, Murdoch said he is negotiating with Bertelsmann, which shares the remaining stake in Vox with Canal Plus. In an interview with the news magazine “Der Spiegel” Murdoch said that if he can’t take over Vox, he will buy another German channel. Bertelsmann apparently fears a re-vitalized Vox, with Murdoch-owned programming like the film “Titanic”, would hurt its RTL channels, and says it has no plans to sell its stake in Vox. (Reuters and “Wall Street Journal”)
ASTRA–Nickelodeon Germany and the DF-1 Promo channel have left Astra transponder 27 (11.612 GHz) VH-1 is still on the transponder at 20:00- 24:00 hrs CET. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “SATCO DX”)
Having disappeared from analog broadcasts at 13 degrees East, Fashion TV will be broadcasting on Astra transponder 64 when the German TM3 is off the air 02:30-07:00 hrs UTC. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
EUTELSAT–Updating the report last time, the Shalom Channel, a Jewish general entertainment and cultural TV channel, launched on May 25, on Hot Bird 3 on 12.380 GHz in clear MPEG-2. The Shalom Channel is also broadcasting in clear MPEG-2 within the D+ package to Italy, TPS and ABSat in France, Canal Plus Polska, and Nethold (Greece). Shalom Channel will join the Sky Digital package from April 1999. In the beginning there’s a 90 minute daily program at 22:30 hrs CET.In a few months programming will increase to 19:00-01:00 hrs CET, and the channel will scramble.
(Arnaud Klein, Shalom Channel)
NBC–NBC has confirmed that it has given the German production company Deutsche Fernseh Agentur a stake in NBC, which DFA will relaunch to the German-speaking parts of Europe in the Fall. NBC has otherwise merged its NBC Europe channel with the National Geographic Channel. (Curt Swinehart)
PAS–Maharishi Veda Vision is broadcasting to Europe in clear MPEG-2 on PAS-1 (45 degrees West) on 11.594 GHz, 13:30-16:30 hrs UTC. (“SATCO DX”)
POLAND–Canal Plus and @Entertainment have broken off their negotiations on starting joint digital broadcasts to Poland. @Entertainment’s Wizja TV has now resumed its own plans, and is broadcasting in encoded MPEG-2 on 12:304 GHz (Hallmark Polska, Cartoon/Turner Classic Movies, Fox Kids, QuesTV, and Travel) and 12.382 (Twoja Wizja, BET on Jazz International, National Geographic, Romantica, and Atomic TV) (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet” and “SATCO DX”)
GERMANY–Premier is now marketing its digital package. The channels are Premiere 1-3 and PPV. (Richard Karlsson in “Aftonbladet”)
MED-TV–After pressure from Turkey, the Slovenske Telekomunikacie state enterprise has cancelled its contract to relay the Kurdish channel MED- TV on Eutelsat II-F2. The relays will end during July. (Cure Swinehart)
NILESAT–Libya’s Jamahirya Satellite Channel has started on Egypt’s new Nilesat 101 (7 degrees West) on 11.862 and 11.977 GHz in clear PAL.
WORLDSPACE–Noah Samara’s WorldSpace, which plans to transmit digital radio channels to the Third World, has signed up four African and Middle Eastern stations: Radio One from Lebanon, Cosmos Digital from South Africa, Kenya’s East FM, and Horizon FM from Burkino Faso. The company already has contracts or options with the national radio stations of Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya, among others. Noah Samara says the BBC is among the Western broadcasters talking to WorldSpace about leasing channels. The Afristar satellite is due to launch in October with Ariane, and will be placed at 21 degrees East. The sister satellites AsiaStar and AmeriStar are to be launched next year. (Reuters)
INDIA–India’s Industry Minister says the cabinet has decided to free the state-controlled airwaves by allowing private broadcasters to air signals from Indian soil. This follows a newspaper report that the government approved a note to allow the uplinking of signals on June 9. It said approval was granted to a proposal that would limit foreign equity in uplinking firms to 20 percent. A new broadcasting bill was proposed last year to end the broadcasting monopoly, but was dropped when the former government collapsed, and the ultra-nationalist BJP-led coalition took over.
The former bill would have limited foreign stakes to 49 percent, and also allowed private broadcasting stations in India. Private satellite broadcasters transmit to India from outside the country. The “Economic Times” newspaper says the new legislation includes a three phase plan. In the first phase only existing Indian players with a minimum 80 percent holding would be allowed to uplink from the country. In the second phase, new ventures fitting the stipulated equity structure would be permitted. In the third phase, uplinking from India would be mandatory, not optional. (Reuters) The bill’s use of the word “uplinking” is ambiguous and sometimes seems to mean terrestrial transmitting, and sometimes seems to refer to satellite uplinks.
A week before the above report, Indian Information Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament she was considering legislation to stop “cultural pollution” from foreign satellite broadcasters, in order to promote traditional Indian values. (AFP)
MURDOCH–Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has sold America’s most popular weekly magazine, “TV Guide” to the United Video Satellite Group, which belongs to TCI. Under the deal, United Video plans to use the TV Guide name for the Prevue Channel, its on-screen channel listing cable TV programming. Outside the US, the Prevue Channel reaches 3 million homes in more than 20 countries. In return, News Corp gets a 40 percent stake in the company, while TCI retains 44 percent. The deal means further co-operation between two of the world’s most powerful media barons, Murdoch and TCI chief John Malone. The are already partners in the Fox Sports Net. (Reuters, AP and “Public Access Nyhetsbrev”)
SCANDINAVIAN CHANNEL–Norwegian-American businessman Steinar Hubertson plans to start the Scandinavian Channel, carrying programs from the Nordic countries on cable in the United States. Unlike a similar effort more than a decade ago, which produced its own programming, this channel is to relay programs from the public service broadcasters of the Nordic region, SVT in Sweden, Denmark’s DTV, the Norwegian NRK, and YLE in Finland. The project is being financed with private money, including an investment from Norway’s Telenor.
The programming will consist mainly of public affairs and documentaries, but not live news, and will be put together in Boulder, Colorado. The target audience is first generation immigrants from the Nordic countries, and Scandinavians who are in America to work or study. The channel is to be offered to cable networks around the United States, but Hubertson expects the most interest from areas such as Minnesota, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, and his home base in Denver. He’s waiting for the introduction of digital cable to open up systems to more channels, during the next three years. (“Dagens Nyheter”)
ARIANE–A fire at the Ariane rocket launch center in French Guiana on June 4 has damaged the launch pad. According to a statement from Arianespace, an electrical fire broke out in the umbilical tower of the Ariane-4 launch facility, but the length of time needed for repairs shouldn’t interfere with the next scheduled launch, at the end of July, beginning of August. (Reuters)