Astra expects strong demand for HD+
Jörn Krieger

Satellite operator SES Astra is confident that it will be able to convince many DTH households to purchase a set-top-box for its German HDTV platform HD+.

“We are in close contact with manufacturers and retailers. Based on their estimations, the sale of HD+ receivers in 2010 should reach a clear six-digit figure,” Wilfried Urner, managing director of Astra subsidiary HD Plus, told German industry publication Digitalmagazin.

The offer, which will be encrypted in Nagravision, will launch on Astra (19.2° East) on November 1 with the HDTV versions of commercial general interest channels RTL and VOX onboard, followed in January by Sat.1, ProSieben and kabel eins. Discussions are taking place with further broadcasters, said Urner, stressing that the reception fee will not be increased if new channels join the platform. “The price will remain at €50 per year. This is a technical service fee, not a fee for the programmes. It has nothing to do with the amount of channels or the content.”

Urner rejected criticism that the advertising-financed free-to-air channels want to use the reception fee to introduce a kind of low-cost pay-TV through the backdoor. “The channels which have announced their HD distribution via HD+ are free-to-air channels. The sole fact that reception will cost something is not sufficient criterion to turn the channels into pay-TV services. Public broadcasters and cable television aren’t pay-TV simply because reception and connection costs something.”

Urner confirmed that a solution to enable pay-TV operator Sky Deutschland’s subscribers to receive HD+ was being worked out. “We are undergoing discussions with Sky and want to achieve a sound solution for Sky customers. We are currently working on this, although at this point in time nothing further can be said.”