Satellite operator SES Astra is currently carrying eight 3D-TV channels, and is expecting more. Ferdinand Kayser, president of SES Astra, says the pattern of 3D launches is very similar to the early days of HDTV. “In Year One of HDTV we carried six channels. That number more or less doubled every year. We believe in 3D, but it is clear that for some broadcasters they will initially be going for programming blocks in 3D while the content shortage catches up.”
Kayser was speaking in Berlin, and unveiled Astra’s latest ‘Satellite Monitor’ numbers, and said Astra was now carrying more than 200 HD channels across its European fleet. “Our expectations [for HDTV] have been over-achieved. We now have large video neighbourhoods just watching HD. Smaller channels cannot afford to be left behind in SD.”
High-def is itself driving digitisation, said CCO Norbert Holzle, adding that there were now 135 million Astra TV homes in Europe, 55 per cent of all TV households. 58 million were DTH homes, 68 miliion served Europe’s cable systems, and 10 million were IPTV-connected homes. 69 per cent of Europe’s homes were digital, but Holzle explained that there still remained a ‘digital divide’ with 79 per cent of Western European homes now digital, but only 40 per cent in Eastern Europe.
However, Astra has a challenge ahead in helping German homes prepare for the country’s absolute analogue switch off just 402 days away on April 30 2012. Astra is quietly winning the loyalty of newly digital viewers, adding 1.6 million satellite homes last year (16 per cent growth), or 5,423 homes per workday. Last year German viewers bought 3.2 million satellite receivers, or 11,000 per workday. But this is still not enough, said Wolfgang Elsaber, MD at Astra Germany. “We need to convert at a rate of 18,000 a day if we are to manage those 2.9 million homes still watching in analogue.”