ProSiebenSat.1 sets HDTV launch date

German television group ProSiebenSat.1 will commence regular transmissions of its free-to-air channels Sat.1, ProSieben and kabel eins in high definition (HDTV) at the end of January 2010.

Test broadcasts will commence on January 1, spokeswoman Petra Fink told German industry publication Digitalmagazin. Amongst the first programmes available in the new TV technology will be Hollywood blockbusters such as parts 1, 2 and 3 of Pirates of the Caribbean, US series, live soccer games, German television films, daily soaps and the Grand Prix Eurovision qualification show.

The amount of original HDTV content will be continuously expanded, with programmes not produced in high definition being up-converted. Distribution will be via the encrypted digital platform HD+ operated by SES Astra, for which viewers will have to pay a yearly reception fee of €50. The first year is offered at no charge.

Fink defended the controversial encryption of the HDTV channels. “All content providers demand the protection of their content. The demands, mostly against misuse, are all the more important for HDTV. Content undergoes a certain exploitation chain: Cinema, DVD, video-on-demand, pay-TV and finally free-to-air TV. Technologies which question these usage sequences make the business model of content providers and also the financing of content obsolete.”

For the channels which form part of HD+ encryption is a basic prerequisite for the protection of their signals, said Fink. “This comprises protection against copying as well as the geographical limitations tied to broadcasting rights. Encryption has been standard procedure for good reason in many neighbouring European countries and in other infrastructures, and is urgently needed also in Germany”, said Fink.

ProSiebenSat.1 is also standing by its controversial plans on usage restrictions of its HDTV content. “Recording for time-shifted viewing and archiving will be possible, but copying the programmes and ad skipping will be prevented,” said Fink.

The HDTV variations of RTL and VOX have been available on HD+ since 1 November, with further TV operators currently negotiating carriage.