Astra expands German HDTV offer


Satellite operator SES Astra is set to expand its high definition (HDTV) television offer for German DTH satellite households.

Contracts are on the verge of completion with sports channel DSF and MTV Networks, financial newspaper Handelsblatt reports, quoting industry sources. Discussions are also believed to be taking place with movie channel Tele 5 and entertainment channel Das Vierte.

Ferdinand Kayser, president and CEO of SES Astra confirmed to Handelsblatt that discussions were being held with a number of broadcasters, without revealing names. “We expect further contracts to be concluded this year,” he said.

On November 1 the high definition versions of free-to-air general interest channels RTL and VOX launched on SES Astra’s encrypted HD+ platform, with Sat.1, ProSieben and kabel eins to follow in January. Kayser is confident that customers will accept the controversial €50 per year reception fee despite the economic crisis: “Our market research has shown that people are certainly prepared to pay this fee.”

Due to the high bandwidth necessary for HDTV services, the new TV technology is a lucrative business for satellite operators. “Digital television leads to a higher demand for capacity,” said Kayser. “We are therefore in the process of commissioning a package of four satellites.” According to the company, the total value of the contract amounts to more than half a billion euros.