BSkyB is opening a new HD/3D launch queue designed to fast-track channels broadcasting in either of the formats onto its electronic programme guide.
The move has been made possible because the newer Sky+ HD receivers do not have the same bottlenecks as the now discontinued SD boxes. A software download in the spring of 2009 ensured that SD receivers no longer carry schedules or programme information from HD channels, easing the pressure on memory.
A timetable for when the new queue will be opened will be given in the next few weeks. Once open, although Sky will be unable to tell broadcasters as to when they might launch until 16 weeks before a proposed launch date, it will be able to advise would be channels as to their position in the queue. Sky originally closed its EPG to new entrants in October 2007, but the satcaster now allows new SD launches through the acquisition of an existing slot.
Details of the new HD/3D launch queue are given in the new edition of the Method for Allocating Listings in Sky’s EPG, which takes effect this month, and outlines the amount of content such channels will be required to broadcast to gain a valuable EPG slot.
3D channels will be required to broadcast no fewer than six hours of non-repeating programmes during a seven-day period. This compares to 12 hours for other TV and radio channels listed in its EPG. Sky says the minimum may be increased as additional 3D content becomes available. Its own channel will have a regular Premier League match every week and a showcase of 3D material.
Although there have been no announcements from channels looking to join the launch of Sky 3D on April 3, international groups such as Discovery and ESPN, already have US launches in the pipeline. Sky has set a target of 50 HD channels to be on air by the end of the year, one that will be easily met with Sky News HD, ITV1 HD, Five HD and Hallmark Channel HD all going live in the next few weeks.
In order to be designated as compliant 3D programmes are expected to have 75% of their content shot using identical camera pairs with a three-image sensor array. In order to gain a listing, 3D channels should contain 90% compliant programmes, though Sky will consider easing this restriction in exceptional circumstances. By contrast an HD channel would be expected to have 75% of its content shot in Native HD.
3D channels are required to broadcast in 1080i/25 as defined by the technical recommendation EBU – TECH 3299 – E. 3D channels must include a primary audio component encoded as a Dolby AC-3 audio stream, as described in ETSI TR 101 154 – Annex C.
It is anticipated that with H.264 encoding technologies this would be no less than an average video bitrate of 15 Mbps for sport content, 11 Mbps for movie content and 13 Mbps for other content, when the 3D channel is broadcast within a statistically multiplexed group of services sharing 36 Mbps of satellite transponder capacity for the video content. The bitrate is reduced for second generation encoding to an average bitrate of 12 Mbps for sport content, 8.5 Mbps for movie content and 10.5 Mbps for other content.