The doomsayers repeatedly tell us that TV’s ‘future is fibre’ and that OTT content providers such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Hotstar and perhaps Apple TV+ will dominate. Moreover, so-called ‘cord cutting’ hasn’t helped players such as Dish or DirecTV. Some analysts have even questioned whether the future will see satellite-delivered TV become obsolete.
“Definitely not so,” implies Deepak Mathur, EVP/Global Sales at SES Video. In an exclusive interview with Advanced-Television he said that while SES recognises that improved digital compression rates mean that the actual bandwidth used by broadcasters tends to be lower than five years ago, the future for satellite TV is extremely bright.
“Every major DTH and free-to-air broadcast customer that we have around the world continue to tell us that satellite is core to their distribution strategy. This is a substantial message for our future. In fact, all of the future video revenue forecasts through 2023, 2025, 2027, the vast amount of these revenues will continue to come from conventional linear television. Translated that means that our technology, our satellite-based technology remains the most cost-effective solution of reaching millions of users and supplying linear television. We can also supply those images in very high-quality and Ultra HD.”
Mathur said that even in so-called ‘mature’ DTH markets such as the UK, France and Germany, there are very real opportunities for satellite. “
He commented: “The combination of linear and non-linear TV is also hugely exciting. I am absolutely convinced that our customers today that aggregate content across genres, across packages which include the usual mix of sport, general entertainment and so forth, they are in the best position than anyone in the global video eco-delivery system to be able to package compelling content to subscribers. The future, in my view, for both DTH and cable, is being able to offer an equally seamless non-linear experience as we have historically for the past 30 years in linear. It is not that one form is cannibalising the other or replacing the other, but the future winners will be the ones that manage to combine these two demands from consumers. We all have to recognise that those viewers want both. They want those options at home, or on a bus, or on the subway. Where I am really excited is tapping into these experiences.”
SES boosted its Video services division with the 2016 acquisition of RR Media, and rolling it into its MX1 subsidiary. “Viewers are used to the breadth of a packaged bundle of programming. But in addition to that bundle they want access to non-linear. I would not want to be in any other distribution business other than satellite. The exciting thing is that we serve more than 1 billion homes today, and we can help them deliver that hybrid experience. We have a growing number of products and services that are designed to enable our customers achieve that entire spectrum of content, linear and non-linear. I firmly believe we are in the ‘sweet spot’ to do this for clients in terms of video delivery,” explained Mathur.
He also said that there are still plenty of DTH ‘hot spots’ around the world where growth is happening; “Let me start with the least obvious, and that’s Africa where there is an enormous, truly enormous potential. The amount of content, locally produced, which is going to come out of Africa is simply huge. We know what West Africa is capable of with its famous Nigerian Nollywood output but there is tremendous growth coming out of East Africa and our ability to help drive those markets is considerable. Remember, affordability is much lower, and business models have to be created where the economics of production and delivery are different.”
Mathur added that there was still plenty of growth headroom in Latin America where new, ‘challenger’ DTH operators are emerging. “India, in particular, going through an interesting phase where there is hyper-competition via its 6 DTH players, and because bandwidth in the cellular space has become much cheaper there are new markets opening up. We are also seeing huge growth in content consumption thanks to these new services. We are an important part of the Indian eco-system.”
He specifically said there was considerable SES focus on the Philippines and Indonesia.
He admitted that Ultra-HD was not taking off quite as quickly as the operator had expected. “For certain types of content across the world there is a demand for 4K. These new UHD services will be the default, in my view. Sports content is top of the list. Travel and documentaries are a natural for 4K, and there’s no question in my mind. There’s no doubt that UHD has to become more ‘mass market’, both in terms of set-ownership and content availability. There’s a strange thing happening: 4K televisions are now the default purchase. But they are also increasingly the default purchase in many emerging markets where 4K TV ownership is much more commonplace than a year ago. Viewers naturally want to see 4K content on their new sets. Inevitably, the first mover is sports. Everyone recognises the advantage in 4K. Over time the other genres will catch up, first with pay-TV who want to show technical leadership in how they serve customers and then general DTH transmissions. The jury is still out as to the scale of UHD. I am hopeful that we will see considerable progress soon.”