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March 12, 2010

SES Astra says HD quality suffers when bit-rate is cut

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by Rapid TV News

Website: Rapid TV News

This time next week SES Astra will unveil its latest data as to the number of homes viewing one or other of its satellites.

The numbers will be good, but the number of HD channels now being offered in Europe is near-spectacular.

But Astra admits there are complaints about too many broadcasters cutting their data-rates, leading to softer HD images.

Thomas Wrede, Astra’s VP/product management, said that Astra’s own HD portfolio now contains 112 channels out of a European total of 280.

Moreover, that 280 is expected to grow to about 600 by 2013.

Wrede said more channels will be added to the Astra offering within the next few weeks, leading to at least 20 new channels by year-end, and another 30 next year.

And these predictions could easily be pessimistic. “Usually forecasts are relatively optimistic, but in terms of HD they have been eventually too pessimistic.

“Even in 2008 we had already exceeded their forecasts and if you look at the end of the decade it is clear that HD will be mainstream.”

He also urged broadcasters not to squeeze the bit-rate of their HD transmissions.

“There is not sufficient HD native content and at some times of the day you see up-converted material, and that’s something I urge broadcasters to change.”

Wrede said there were viewer complaints when broadcasters ran at a data-rate of less than 12 Mbps.

“There is a well known relationship between the number of subscribers and the number of channels and we find this with each pay-TV operator,” said Wrede.

However, not everyone is finding it easy to earn revenues from HD.

“If you look at the business models you find it works well for pay-TV operators and the public broadcasters, but for the commercial broadcasters there is an issue, the means of financing the extra costs.

“This is why in Germany for real free-to-air you only see the public broadcasters.

“The private channels have had to encrypt and the majority of HD channels on our system come from pay-TV operators”.

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