Astra wins kudos for HD plan

Written by Chris Forrester

Satellite operator SES Astra has launched its own HDTV service over Germany, a task normally left to pay-TV broadcasters. But pay-TV has proven hugely difficult to establish in Germany despite millions of suitable HD Ready TVs in people’s homes. And the plan seems to have gone down well.

As we reported yesterday, Astra’s service, branded with the label HD+, will offer new HD programmes to TV households. The launch of HD+ is foreseen for late autumn.

The first programmes which will be part of the HD+ offer are the commercial channels RTL and VOX. Relevant agreements have been signed with the Media Group RTL Germany. RTL has contracted additional long-term transponder capacity for the transmission of the new HD programmes from Astra’s prime orbital position 19.2 degrees East.

HD+ is independent from TV operators and offers the technical management and the marketing of HD programmes for all broadcasters. The technical management includes the distribution of the smart cards that are necessary for the reception. SES Astra will start negotiations with other channels to enlarge the offer.

“The new service creates attractive added value for viewers,“ said Wilfried Urner, Managing Director of the newly-founded Astra operating unit HD PLUS in Unterföhring near Munich. ”This lays a new base for the reception of highly valuable HD programmes.”

Some of the immediate comments said:

HDTV is a "potential driver of digitalisation" ( The German Federation of German Consumer Organisations is assuming that HDTV is a potential new driver of digitalisation, according to media expert Michael Bobrowski. He said that it is equally important to increase the amount of attractive content in HD quality.

"HDTV launch has been delayed for years" (HDTV Online). Lothar Bisky, member of the German parliament for the Left Party, demanded a clear schedule regarding the introduction of HDTV, stressing that politics have delayed it for years already. "In these times of crisis, many broadcasters may have problems investing the money for it," he told Digitalfernsehen. Nevertheless, it is not impossible. Bisky claims that HDTV could be a diver for digitalisation.

HDTV creates "added value" ( “Digitalisation will be successful with TV viewers,” said Hans-Joachim Otto, head of the German parliament's Committee on Cultural and Media Affairs. He emphasized that it is important for the viewer to realize that HD creates real added value.