US Programmers: Still Franchising Via Satellite in Europe

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    September 2005 SATMAGAZINE.COM


    US Programmers: Still FranchisingVia Satellite in Europe by Daniel Freyer

    Eutelsats Hot Bird 1 satellite

    With over 2641 million TVhomes, 75 million of whichare cable and over 51million satellite DTH homes, it is easy tounderstand why Europe has attracted somany American broadcasters to ventureacross the pond. To put this in context,the US has 73 million cable subscribersand just over 26 million satellite homes. Inaddition to the size of the market, Europehas the appetite Europeans are hugeconsumers of US content and have anappreciation for American programming.Many American broadcasters who havesuccessfully made the transatlantic hopwith multiple European channels includeTurner Networks, QVC, Bloomberg,Viacoms MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeonnetworks, Discovery Networks, Playboy,and Hallmark Channel to name a few.Furthermore, as the costs of channeluplink and satellite distribution have fallenwith digital compression, the reducedbarriers to entry have allowed many newnetworks to launch in Europe in recentyears.

    Open Skies and Local Skies

    Unlike the US today, where aprogrammer needs to negotiate carriagewith an EchoStar (11.5 million subscribers)or DIRECTV (14.7 million subscribers) inorder to reach mainstream DTH viewers, inEurope its possible for a new channel tosimply lease uplink and satellite transmis-sion services and directly access asubstantial home viewer audience. Butits an audience spread across thirtycountries, each with its unique viewertastes, market and regulations. In addi-

    tion, desirable satellite subscribers areaggregated in key countries on specificdomestic DTH platforms, or bouquets,like Sky (BSkyB) in the UK, Digital Plus inSpain, Sky Italia in Italy, Frances TPS andCanal Plus, and so on.

    Hot Birds

    Top satellite options for Pan Euro-pean signals are the Eutelsat Hot Bird fleetof co-located spacecraft at 13 East, andSES-Astras Astra fleet co-located at 19.2East and 28.2 East. Both orbital loca-tions are geared to making it easy formillions of DTH antennas across Europeto receive hundreds of radio & TVchannels via a single rooftop dish.

    Hot Bird at 13 East and EuroBird 1at 28.5 East reach 120 million homesacross Europe, North Africa and theMiddle East, boasting a community ofover 1500 TV and 800 Radio channels. For Europe alone, around 1500 TV and radio

    services reached a measuredaudience of 68 millioncable homes and 45million DTH homes andmore than 2 million hotelrooms for 2004, accord-ing to the company.Launching a newchannel on this locationoffers access to 80% of cable and satellitehomes in Western,Central and EasternEurope, and 99% cablehead-end penetration2.

    The Astra 19.2 East locationcombined with Astra (28.2 East location)offers an attractive reach of over 102.68million European cable and satellitehomes, or 82% penetration of that totalmarket. It hits 76% of satellite homes andaccesses 87% of cable subscribers.

    A Whos Who of American brandchannels can be found as digital primarydistribution signals at these orbitallocations. Numerous primary feedsignals are used by these programmers toreach Europes cable systems, as well asthe broadcast centers of national DTHbouquets like Canal Satellite and TPS inFrance, Sky Italia, Digital Plus and others.

    For instance, Turner Networks CNNInternational is uplinked to Hot Bird-6 in adigital multiplex operated and uplinkedfrom outside of London by GlobeCast.This particular GlobeCast multiplex servicecarries the major European news channels,including CNN Internationals Europe

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    feed, BBC World and Euronews reachingvirtually every cable headend in Europe.Bloomberg TV also uses Hot Bird-6,broadcasting a five-channel multiplex ofchannels for European cable and DTHplatforms while Viacom renewed itscontract earlier this year for uplink of allits European feeds on Hot Bird-6.

    While they may be the best, Hot Birdat 13 East and Astra 19.2 East locationsare not the only distribution options. Forexample, Viacom, Inc, distributes the UKMTV and VH1 channels for the Skyplatform on its transponder on theAstra2A satellite at 28.2 East, also usinga GlobeCast uplink from London. In

    addition, although Discovery Channelfeeds to European cable markets from itsplayout facilities in the UK, its cablesignals are uplinked by GlobeCast to theSirius-1 spacecraft, which offered lowerrates on transponders when it firstlaunched.

    DTH Platforms: The UK is FirstPort of Call

    With no language barrier and strongcultural ties, its perhaps not surprisingthat American TV fare has a strongfoothold in the UK. How strong? In arecent sample of UK TV channels trackedby BARB for an August 2005 week, a sub-

    a substantial amount of non-BSkyB-owned channels were American brands( See Table 1). These Ame-ricanchannels captured over 10% of totalweekly viewing share, or the equivalent of24% of the total cable and satellite-viewing share. As such, the UKs SkyDTH is a key distribution platform formany American-brand channels.

    The UK market is somewhat straight-forward in that theres a single provider ofsatellite DTH services BSkyB. The SkyDigital bouquet reaches 7.7 millionsubscribers and BSkyB aims to raise thisto 10 million by 2010. Many of thechannels on the Sky platform also havecarriage with the two UK cable operators


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    NTL and Telewest which have 4.5million subscribers between them. Inaddition, there is one Digital TerrestrialTelevision operator Freeview whichreaches 5 million homes. All channels onthe Sky platform are digitally encryptedfor reception only via Skys set topreceivers, including the Free-To-Airchannels in Skys basic package forsubscribers. All of the major NorthAmerican programmers in the UK are onthe Sky platform.

    Becoming part of the Sky bouquetdoesnt mean that as a channel you needto buy satellite capacity and uplink fromBSkyB. Programmers can choose from anumber of UK-based satellite and uplinkcompanies that offer digital services onthe Astra 28.2 and Eurobird 28.5 Eastsatellites.

    The Astra 2A, 2B and 2D satellites co-located at 28.2 East formed the firstsatellite fleet used by Sky until four yearsago when the new Eutelsat Eurobirdsatellite was co-located at the same orbitalslot, providing more transponder capacityfor new Sky channels all receivable bythe same DTH dishes. Transponderspace on Astra at 28.2 degrees East hadbeen very expensive but the launch ofEurobird opened the marketplace up byintroducing competition, new spaceinventory and more affordable rates.Soon a large number of new channels runby smaller companies joined the Skylineup.

    However, being available on the satelliteis useless if viewers cant find yourchannel. Broadcasters can arrange for alisting on the Sky Electronic ProgramGuide (EPG) as a separate transactionwith BSkyB, even if they are not beinguplinked by BSkyB. The Sky systemprovides an EPG listing for each channel,which is based on programming genrecategories, e.g. general entertainment,sports, specialist etc. EPG listings areregulated by the government, as is the

    tariff for being listed. It runs at some75,000 per year for Free-To-Airchannels. Pay-Per-View channels paymore, plus 1.50 per subscriber. Paychannels can either use Skyssubscription management and consumercall center for authorizations, activationsand billing, or they can outsource thatfunction to other companies, whotypically charge a per-subscriber monthlyfee for the service.

    Satellite service providers can assist anew programmer in managing orfacilitating the technical arrangements fordelivery of EPG materials to the BSkyBorigination center.

    For example, GlobeCast has been thecontractor of choice for a number ofchannels in the Sky package to provideuplink and space segment. In order toinclude the EPG data in its uplinkmultiplex at the GlobeCast BrookmansPark Teleport, GlobeCast houses a SkyAdaptation Hub there that is remotely

    operated by BSkyB. This system outputsa video program stream with the EPG andsubscription authorization informationadapted to a single transport stream,which feeds GlobeCasts multiplex uplink

    All broadcasters need a license from therelevant issuing authority, for exampleOfcom in the UK and CSA in France.

    Licensing Issues

    Broadcasters now also need to complywith European industry regulations. Inthe current political climate, newEuropean directives are compellingplayers in the broadcast arena to be morecautious of what is made available ontheir airwaves and authorities are morestrenuously enforcing existing legislation.Most satellite operators will no longercarry a channel that is not licensed asthey could now be subject to fines andcould even be considered an accompliceor accessory to

    Discovery WingsDisney ChannelDisney PlayhouseDisney ToonsE! EntertainmentFox NewsFox KidsHallmarkHistory ChannelMTV ClassicMTV HitsMTV2MTVNational GeographicNickelodeon

    Animal PlanetBravoBoomerangCartoon NetworkBiography ChannelBloomberg TVCNBCCNN InternationalDiscovery CivilizationsDiscovery HealthDiscovery Home & LeisureDiscovery KidsDiscovery ScienceDiscovery Real TimeDiscovery Travel & Adventure

    Table no. 1Selected American Channels in Europe

    UK Satellite Channels

    Nick JuniorNick ToonsNickelodeonNick ToonsParamount ComedyParamount 2Playboy TVQVCSci Fi ChannelThe BoxThe Golf ChannelThe Travel ChannelTurner Classic MoviesVH1, VH2, Classic

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    a programmers actions whose contentwas deemed illegal or criminal. Therefore,appropriate licenses must now be ob-tained to launch operations in Europe andbroadcast service providers with expertiseon regional legislation can help navigatethis otherwise daunting and unfamiliarpath.

    The good news is that a licensegranted by any country within theEuropean Union is valid for all the membercountries, as well as all associated statesand it is not necessary to apply forindividual licenses in every country wherethe programming will be broadcast.

    While they cannot provide legalcounsel, some broadcast transmissionservice providers, like GlobeCast, canexplain the rules and provide an outline ofthe steps that need to be taken to complywith current regulations everything fromwhere to apply, to submission procedures,to license renewals. In fact, legal counselis rarely necessary at all as the regulatoryauthorities generally insist on having arelationship directly with the broadcastersand will often not enter into a discussionwith a third party. Some local authoritieshave even taken measures to improvetheir user-friendliness for Americancompanies by adding English-speakingstaff.

    Applying for a License

    The application must either besubmitted in the country where thebroadcaster maintains its flagship Euro-pean office (i.e. where decisions are madewith regard to editorial content and wheretop regional management is based), or inthe country where the satellite operator isregistered. The four major satelliteoperators in Europe are Astra (Luxem-bourg); Eutelsat (France); Hispasat(Spain); and NSS (Netherlands).

    In France, and a number of other

    countries, there is no fee for a license andwhere payment is required the cost istypically nominal. Information requiredfor the application usually includes theapplicant companys bylaws and adescription of its content.

    Since it can take up to two months

    for an application to be approved, it iswise to apply for a license in the earlyplanning stages. Depending on the natureof the channel, the process can be fasterbut uplinking can not take place without avalid license.

    Once the license is approved it is


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    is valid for a term of five years atthe end of which an application forrenewal must be submitted.Renewal is usually a rather swiftprocess requiring no more than anupdated programming schedule.

    When in Roma.

    Negotiation of local DTH carriageterms, fees, EPG placement andtechnical integration to meet therequirements of a specific DTHbouquet can be complex, time-consuming and perplexing for aUS-based business with limitedEuropean presence.Programmers should look for in-Europe satellite transmissionpartners that offer in-countryoffices, with strong local contactsand experience to facilitatenegotiations for distribution onspecific DTH bouquets andplatforms in the UK, Spain, Italy,France, Germany and elsewhere,depending on the programmerstarget markets.

    This edge gained by working withthe right satellite service providerswho offer experience, marketconnections and relationships canbe a big benefit to your successfullaunch and distribution in Europe.

    Setting up Shop

    For American programmersconsidering European channelexpansion, its obviously critical tounderstand unique viewer tastes.What may work in the UK, withoutany language conversion, could befar from the mark in France. Withtransatlantic fiber rates between Londonor Paris, and New York or Los Angeles aslow as domestic US cross-country rates,US-based networks can cost-effectivelyoriginate European feeds in the US and

    then deliver them via fiber to Europeanuplinks. This is the case for instance withLos Angeles-based E! Entertainment,which sends two feeds to Europe.European interstitials, time-delays and

    spots can be inserted via remotelycontrolled or monitored automationsystems. As the European revenuestream builds, increased local presencemay be warranted.



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    Leveraging Advanced Content

    Management Technology

    Using the latest in ingest, file storage,technologies, programmers can now evenremotely control their playlistmanagement, reducing the technical costof creating new channels in-country.For example, GlobeCast has introducedits Store & Broadcast ContentManagement Delivery System whichallows international channels to distributemultiple program streams with separatelanguage tracks and subtitling without thecost of creating and delivering sixseparate linear feeds. This new kind ofservice allows the programmer to controltransmission parameters, cue tones,associated subtitling, animated and fixedlogos, as well as audio streams, The resultis a central platform that reduces the cost,logistics and infrastructure associatedwith more traditional tape-basedorigination solutions.

    The UK has been a popular place forAmericans to base initial Europeanoperations, with no language barriers,good infrastructure and a competitivemarket for satellite, uplink and playoutfacilities readily available in or aroundLondon. For example, Middle East Pay-TV operator Showtime has selectedGlobeCast to deliver a bouquet of 12leading Western television channels viaLondon to the DTH providers digitalplatform on Nilesat 102 covering the

    Middle East and North Africa. Bloombergdecided to operate its own playout andorigination facilities in England, where itcreates unique channels for France, Italy,Germany and of course the UK.Bloombergs playout is fed to theGlobeCast uplink in London. Viacomuplinks its MTV networks from justoutside London, as do Discovery andTurner networks. Turner launched aFrench language version of childrenschannel Boomerang on the French TPSpackage but, given its existing UKoperations, elected to originate the signalin the UK, relying on GlobeCast to fiberthe signal to Paris for uplink to its jointplatform with TPS on Hot Bird.

    Obviously there are exceptions tolocating in the UK, whether forregulatory, programming-specific or otherbusiness reasons. A case in point isreligious programmer TrinityBroadcasting Network (TBN). For theIberian market, TBN has a feed on theSpanish DTH platform uplinked fromGlobeCast in Spain to a Hispasat

    spacecraft multiplex. Meanwhile, TBNrelies on GlobeCast to uplink its SkyDigital signal for the UK on Eurobird.GlobeCast also operates a digital multiplexfor TBN on Hot Bird for Europeandistribution of six channels.

    Regardless of where operations arebased, Europe offers opportunities notonly for subscription and pay channeldistribution but also in emerging revenueopportunities like interactive services.Although satellite distribution andtechnical infrastructure decisions do playa part in a channels success,programming to meet the needs ofspecific European viewer and marketsegments is obviously the critical successfactor. To help focus your resources onprogramming and marketing, Americanprogrammers planning European channelscan look for satellite service providerswho offer proven technical expertise,one-stop-shopping for prime Europeanand international satellite and uplink andfiber facilities, and service quality trackrecords. In-country contacts andexpertise, and the ability to help gain DTHplatform carriage in Europe should beoffered and available. Customer servicein both the US and Europe, anunderstanding of both the Europeanenvironment and your businessStateside, and facilities and assets tolink the two should be the standard youexpect in satellite service providers tohelp make your channel a success.

    Notes:1 Eutelsat market study on data from SES-Astra

    Control Room monitoringsatellite packages overEurope with AmericanProgramming(Photo Courtesy ofGlobeCast)