The industry and retailers were ready, consumers had been informed, but then came Corona: In view of the current crisis, German public broadcaster ARD does not consider it appropriate to carry out the SD switch-off of its TV channels on Astra (19.2 degrees East).
The SD shutdown announced for January 2021 will therefore be postponed, according sources at ARD. Previously, fellow public broadcaster ZDF had already decided to continue SD satellite transmission and extended its contract with Astra operator SES. Officially, no details are known about the duration and conditions of the contracts, but according to industry sources, the agreements initially run until 2025 and can be terminated annually.
SES is said to have accommodated the public broadcasters with favourable financial conditions. This may have made it easier for ARD and ZDF to reach a decision, since the public licence fee commission KEF no longer provides the broadcasters with a specified budget for SD satellite distribution. ARD and ZDF therefore have to finance the costs by shifting funds from other budgets, where the money is then no longer available.
In the Corona state of emergency, it would be inappropriate for retailers and consumers to implement such a technical changeover, which in some cases would have resulted in the purchase of new reception equipment and technicians visiting the households, especially in the case of older, technically less experienced people, according to ARD circles.
Additionally, there is the special role of public broadcasters and their public service mandate in the Corona crisis, where the population’s need for information is particularly strong. Accordingly, the timing for a technical changeover was unfavourable, with the danger of excluding individual households.
According to Astra TV Monitor 2019, 85% (14.65 million) of German DTH satellite households already receive TV in HD quality. Only 2.63 million still rely on SD resolution and would have been affected by the changeover.
With their decision, ARD and ZDF are in line with the commercial broadcasters, who will also continue to broadcast in SD resolution on satellite. In January 2020, RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 concluded long-term contract extensions with SES for the SD distribution of their channels via Astra.