LAS VEGAS -- SES Americom-New Skies
has added six HD channels from MTV Networks to its HD-Prime distribution
platform, the company said.
That boosts the total number of channels it handles to 67,
more than any other provider, according to senior vice president of media
services Bryan McGuirk. Worldwide, there are 136 HD channels on parent company SES
platforms, McGuirk said.
The amount of channels handled by the company "has almost
doubled in the last year," McGuirk said during an interview at the company's
booth at the National Association of Broadcasters convention here. "HD has now officially gone from being a niche
offering at the media companies to something that is mainstream for every
channel. All those channels that weren't in HD are now going HD."
The six MTV channels -- Nickelodeon HD, MTV HD, VH1 HD,
Comedy Central HD, Spike TV HD and CMT HD -- will all be distributed in MPEG-4,
continuing programmers' industry-wide move to that compression standard.
"For MPEG-4, the last mile has a ways to go," McGuirk
explained, referring to the large number of MPEG-2 set-tops that cable
operators would need to replace before they begin to take advantage of MPEG-4's
bandwidth savings. "But on the wholesale side, MPEG-4 is now mainstream."
To conserve capacity for the rapidly growing demand for HD
channels, SES was an early adopter of MPEG-4
and was the first to put DVB-S2 satellite modulation in its birds, McGuirk
"There wouldn't be enough capacity to meet demand if we
hadn't done that," he said.
Even with better compression, satellite operator has had to
aggressively expand its satellite fleet and capacity. "We are really the only
satellite player that has added HD capacity," McGuirk said. "Today, we have
five satellites [for the cable industry] and we grew that from nothing. No one
else has done that in the last 15 years."
That expansion will continue in upcoming years, driven
initially by the launch of more HD channels and several years down the road by
the development of more advanced services, such as high-definition 3-D
programming and such higher-resolution formats as 1080p at 60 frames per
"We have a number of birds in the factory," said McGuirk,
who said SES Americom must play several
years ahead to make certain it has the capacity to meet industry trends.
"We are already had some in-depth discussions with leading
media players about trying to implement 1080p 60," he added, noting that SES
has been involved in several experiments with delivering 3-D content.
At NAB, SES
Americom-New Skies also announced several other deals. These include: a
five-year distribution and contribution deal for the delivery of CNN to and
from Europe and the Middle East;
the renewal of a deal for 160 MHz of satellite capacity with DRS
Technologies; and a multi-year deal to distribute THIS TV, a partnership
between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Weigel Broadcasting.
The 24-hour digital multicast channel, which uses
programming from the MGM library and originates from Weigel's WCIU-TV in Chicago, has been cleared by more than 70 stations around the
country and expects to reach more than 70% of U.S. homes by the end of the year.