RTL to launch new DTT package

Jörn Krieger

German media group RTL plans to launch a DTT package in the cities of Halle and Leipzig this autumn.

The media authorities of federal states Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony have allocated the company DTT frequencies, which can reach a total of 1.3 million households, for a period of ten years. The offer, to be transmitted with basic encryption, will comprise free-to-air channels RTL, RTL II, VOX and Super RTL along with pay-TV services RTL Crime and Passion.

Distribution will be via the new compression system MPEG-4, which can carry twice as many channels as the hitherto utilised MPEG-2 standard. Viewers will, however, require a new receiver as set-top-boxes currently on the market are only compatible with MPEG-2.

The German department of satellite operator Eutelsat, which is responsible for retail distribution, customer service and smartcard activation, wants to offer hybrid MPEG-2/4 receivers in shops by mid-year for under €100. The sale price will include a one-off fee to cover services provided by Eutelsat. Conax will be used to encrypt the offer.

The smartcards necessary for reception will include a one-year subscription to RTL Crime and Passion, after which the channels can be received for €2.90 per month. There will be no fee for the free-to-air channels. Until now only 12 channels offered by public broadcasters were available via DTT in the Halle and Leipzig regions. Within metropolitan Leipzig four commercial broadcasters can currently be received via DTT as part of a pilot project.

“The media authorities consider the deployment of MPEG-4 as a further development of DTT,” said Kurt-Ulrich Mayer, president of the board of Saxony’s regional media authority. “At the same time we want to ensure that an open market for receivers can develop. Only in this way can it be guaranteed that further broadcasters will be able to join DTT under discriminatory-free conditions in future.”

After Stuttgart, Halle/Leipzig is the second urban region in which RTL will roll out a DTT package in MPEG-4 with basic encryption. An RTL spokeswoman confirmed the Cologne-based broadcaster’s interest in the tendered DTT frequencies in Halle and Leipzig in February, at the same time announcing that the company would follow the Stuttgart model for all new DTT regions it would enter. For regions where RTL’s free-to-air channels are already available via DTT in MPEG-2 and without basic encryption, no changes are planned.