Will the future of satellite be guided by 3D?

Friday, June 24th, 2011
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Satellite TV in Europe and North America

IDATE has just published its new report “Satellite TV”. This report looks at the latest developments and major trends in television markets, as much in terms of satellite’s prominence as a broadcasting mode in national TV markets, as the strategies employed by the broadcast networks and pay-TV services, especially with respect to their 3D offers, and provides an analysis of how this affects the satellite industry.

“Satellite is the best-placed network for broadcasting the widest selection of HD and 3D content over a vast geographical territory, with optimum picture quality. Although HD content, and gradually 3D content too, is available on all TV broadcasting networks, the conditions are not the same in each case (impact of operator’s choice of encoding, in particular), and this directly affects the picture quality” explain Stéphanie VILLARET, Project Manager, Co-Head Satellite Practice.

Growing demand for satellite capacity for TV broadcasting

In spite of a slowdown in the number of new TV channels in standard quality, and even considering advances in the compression and broadcast standards used (the DVB-S2/MPEG-4 combination still mainly used to broadcast HD channels), the spread of HD delivery should help sustain growth in the satellite TV broadcasting market for many years to come, both in North America and Western Europe.

HDTV is still the chief growth outlet for satellite operators in the TV market

TV homes are becoming better and better equipped to receive and record in high definition. The United Kingdom has the highest take-up of HDTV sets (almost all TVs sold in the country are now “HD ready”): 59% of homes are equipped with a compatible set compared with 57% in the United States, 46% in France and 39% in Germany.

HDTV take-up in Western Europe is a little behind the United States, although development of the market in North America did start a few years earlier (early 2000 in the United States, 2005 in Western Europe).

Number of HDTV households by platform and country, end-2009:

Subscribers (m)   UK, FRA, GER, ITA   USA
                  -----------------  ----
Satellite                       9.0  14.7
Cable                           2.5  21.8
IPTV                            2.2   2.5
DTT                             5.3  11.3
                  -----------------  ----
   TOTAL                       18.9  50.3

Source: IDATE

Emergence of 3DTV

Initially spurred on by video games and movie theaters, 3D is now besieging the TV market. 2010 was punctuated by numerous announcements of 3D channel launches, many featuring special one-off events and VoD services, and a few broadcasting non-stop

The number of 3D channels available on satellite is still limited and the catalogue of 3D programs still lacking. All of the 3D VoD services launched by operators on the various networks ultimately offer much the same content. The scarcity of 3D programs offers little in the way of exclusivity contracts and there are few opportunities for differentiating the various solutions on the market. If the number of non-stop 3D channels and 3D VoD services were to continue to grow in the future, IDATE estimates that in 2015, the 3D service would take up around ten frequency channels on each of the leading DTH premium platforms, such as CanalSat in France, Sky in the United Kingdom and ones in the United States. By 2015, around twenty 3D satellite channels should be available in North America and thirty or so in Western Europe.