Advanced Television

SES: 8 Ultra HD channels

February 26, 2016

By Chris Forrester

Satellite operator SES says it is now carrying eight Ultra HD channels. The news emerged during the operator’s results announcement, which also saw the company state that the number of HD channels it was carrying grew by an impressive 18.3 per cent to 2,230, and representing a HD penetration rate up from 28.9 per cent to 30.7 per cent (y-o-y).

SES announced it had signed an agreement to buy RR Media and to absorb its business with SES Platform Services (SES PS). “The new company will offer full continuity and enhanced service to SES PS and RR Media existing customers, leveraging multiple satellite positions as well as a large fibre network and the Internet. SES will pay a consideration of $13.291 per share to acquire a 100 per cent interest in RR Media, which corresponds to an enterprise value of $242 million. The acquisition will be funded from the group’s existing financial resources and is subject to regulatory approvals (expected to be completed in Q2/Q3 2016),” said SES.

SES revealed that it now owns 49 per cent of satellite constellation O3b.

SES added 307 new channels during the year, 170 of which were in HD. Channel count on its fleet now tops 7268 and “is well ahead of the rest of the industry”, said CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh.

European TV channels grew 9 per cent to nearly 2,600, while HDTV channels increased 26 per cent to 675. During the period, SES secured a long-term contract to broadcast BBC World News in HD. In August 2015, Deutsche Welle signed long-term capacity agreements on three satellites (ASTRA 4A, ASTRA 5B and SES-5) to broadcast German and English-language channels in Eastern Europe and Africa. In December 2015, Viasat, a DTH broadcaster and pay-TV operator owned by Swedish media and entertainment group Modern Times Group, extended its capacity contract to broadcast 230 channels in the Nordic and Baltic countries via ASTRA 4A and SES-5. In addition, continued demand for high-quality content drove an 11 per cent increase in HD+’s paying subscriber base to over 1.8 million.

In North America, HDTV channels on SES satellites increased by 3 per cent to over 1,200 channels. In October 2015, Scripps Networks Interactive migrated and expanded its North American distribution platform to two SES satellites at the centre of the North American orbital arc, which reaches over 100 million US households. With a full line-up of popular network brands (including HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network and Travel Channel), Scripps Networks Interactive is utilising a full C-band transponder on SES-1 for HD content and a further C-band transponder on SES-3 to distribute SD feeds.
Channel growth was particularly pronounced in emerging markets, where SES is expanding its video presence. SES now carries 2,900 TV channels (40 per cent of total channels) to over 70 million households across a range of fast-growing markets, including Latin America, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. This compares to just over 2,300 channels at the end of 2014, which represents a growth of 24 per cent in one year and includes a doubling in HDTV channels to well over 300.

“In Ultra HD, SES was the first satellite operator to secure commercial agreements to broadcast this next generation video experience. SES now broadcasts eight commercial Ultra HD channels – (Europe’s first commercial UHD channel) and Fashion One 4K (the world’s first global UHD channel), as well as Airtel 4K, Dish UHD Promo, High 4K TV, INSIGHT, NASA TV UHD and UHD-1 – and also signed (in July 2015) a commercial agreement to provide Sky Deutschland with additional capacity for Ultra HD broadcasts,” said the company.

SES reports revenues for 2015 of €2.015 billion (up 5 per cent), and EBITDA up 4.6 per cent at €1.494 billion, and profit (after tax) up 5 per cent at €674 million. Its contracted backlog grew €100 million to €7.4 billion.

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