Giving delegates a sneak preview of data to be released next week at a series of European roadshows, Thomas Wrede, VP product management media, SES Astra, said the current 280 channels on Europe’s various satellite systems were expected to increase to around 600 by 2013. The Astra satellites are currently home to 112 HD channels with further additions anticipated over the next few weeks. 20 new channels are expected this year and a further 30 in 2011.
“There is a well known relationship between the number of subscribers and the number of channels and we find this with each pay-TV operator,” said Wrede. However, he pointed out that not all broadcasters are finding it easy to make a living from HD. “If you look at the business models you find it works well for pay-TV operators and the public broadcasters, but for the commercial broadcasters there is an issue, the means of financing the extra costs. This is why in Germany for real free-to-air you only see the public broadcasters. The private channels have had to encrypt and the majority of HD channels on our system come from pay-TV operators”.
Wrede said there had been an increase in the number of flat screens capable of displaying HD pictures in 1920 x 1080, representing one fifth of the 125 million flat screens receivers purchased in Europe, corresponding to 60% of all European homes. 97% of TV displays sold in Europe are now HD Ready. “Usually forecasts are relatively optimistic, but in terms of HD they have been eventually too pessimistic. Even in 2008 we had already exceeded their forecasts and if you look at the end of the decade it is clear that HD will be mainstream”.
Currently 106 out of the 112 broadcasters available on the Astra satellites broadcast in the 1080i format, though some PSBs are in 720p. “There is not sufficient HD native content, at some times of the day you see 4:3 upconverted, and that’s something I urge broadcasters to change.” Wrede said there were viewer complaints when broadcasters ran at a datarate of less than 12 Mbps.