June launch for Fransat on Eutelsat

By Robert Briel | April 8, 2009

A new bouquet of the French digital terrestrial channels will be available from June onwards on the Eutelsat Atlantic Bird 3 satellite. The offer will be marketed as Fransat and will be in competition with the Canal+ operated TNTSat bouquet on Astra.

Eutelsat’s 5° West neighbourhood, which is occupied by Atlantic Bird 3, has operated as a complement to France’s terrestrial broadcasting network for more than 20 years by delivering channels direct by satellite to homes located beyond terrestrial reception.

The transition to digital of this key French neighbourhood reflects the ‘Digital France 2012 Plan’ and the new broadcasting law of March 5, 2009, which aim to offer a solution to homes in areas with poor terrestrial reception to access DTT channels without incurring the extra cost of adjusting their existing dish installation. France’s free analogue channels will remain available via Atlantic Bird 3.

The majority of France’s 18 free-to-air DTT channels are already transmitting from this position. Assembled by Eutelsat in the Fransat platform, the 18 channels will be available from June with no subscription fee. Viewers will need to buy a special Fransat kit comprising a digital decoder and access card, which will cost Euro 99.00 in retail. Multiple vendors will supply the box.

Until now, the available DTT channels on this position were only available as part of the pay offer from Bis of the Groupe AB.

In addition to the 18 SD channels, the bouquet will also broadcast the four free DTT channels broadcast in HDTV: TF1 HD, France 2 HD, Arte HD and M6 HD.

Commenting on the announcement, Giuliano Berretta, Chairman and CEO of Eutelsat Communications, said in a statement: “By offering all French free DTT channels to homes beyond range of terrestrial reception Eutelsat is demonstrating its ambition to accompany the transition to digital for all French homes, and to pursue the universal service mission of the 5° West neighbourhood. With Fransat satellite technology is once again showing how it complements terrestrial networks and plays a key role at the heart of the digital economy. By accelerating the digitisation process of our longstanding installed base of antennas pointed towards 5° West, we are consolidating this neighbourhood’s role as a major video pole for the French market and providing a valuable new opportunity for our client operators to develop digital services.”