Sat-ND 97-04-08 - Satellite and Media News
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* NEW DATE FOR ARIANE FLIGHT 95
* BT BROADCAST SERVICES CROSS THE POND
* COCA COLA DROPS NORDIC COMMERCIALS
* MORELOS, SOLIDARIDAD UP FOR GRABS
* CHANNEL 5 ON TRACK
* COLOMBIAN RADIO ON AMERISTAR
* DILLER'S NEW NETWORK
* IRIDIUM'S FIRST THREE GATEWAYS
* MICROSPACE ON GALAXY IV
* PANNING AND SCANNING
* BLOOMBERG -- THE CHANNEL THAT MAKES YOU SICK WHILE WATCHING
* MICROSOFT BUYS WEB TV, PROPOSES TV STANDARDS
* IBM UNVEILS DIGITAL TV PLANS
Over the next ten days or so, I will probably not be able to deliver
Sat-ND as a daily service. Actually, I don't know whether I will be able
to deliver Sat-ND at all during that period.
NEW DATE FOR ARIANE FLIGHT 95
The launch of Europe's 95th Ariane rocket has been rescheduled for April
16 (probably early morning of April 17 in Europe.) The Ariane 4 will put
THAICOM 3 and BSAT-1A into orbit and not, as a German news agency
claimed, "three Thai satellites."
BT BROADCAST SERVICES CROSS THE POND
Reuters Holdings has agreed to sell the international satellite
transmission services of its BrightStar commercial satellite branch to
British Telecom (BT) Plc. This will allow BT to take over capacity in the
transatlantic INTELSAT K -- not quite unexpected as BT actually is about
to take over MCI, a large U.S. telecommunications company. BT also plans
to market capacity leased by MCI on U.S. domestic satellites, saying this
would provide even more connectivity between Europe and the entire U.S.
[I leave it up to you to find the contradiction in this statement. --
Reuters newsfeeds will stay on INTELSAT K, anyway. The company announced
to place its permanent and occasional television distribution business
COCA COLA DROPS NORDIC COMMERCIALS
Dagens Industri reported that Coca Cola will drop the commercials on the
third Swedish terrestrial TV channel TV 4. The reason for the move is
said to be the high price TV 4 demands. Earlier, I received a report that
Coca Cola had dropped commercials on Norwegian broadcaster TV 2.
MORELOS, SOLIDARIDAD UP FOR GRABS
Mexico will soon sell a large stake in its three geostationary
satellites, MORELOS 2, SOLIDARIDAD 1 and SOLIDARIDAD 2. Whatever remains
will be placed on the Mexican stock market, announced the Communication
and Transport Ministry's privatisation coordinator Jorge Silberstein.
Of course, this is a bit exaggerated. The satellites will not be sold,
just their use; the Mexican government will retain oversight over
satellite communications, orbital slots, and frequencies. Nonetheless, it
seems that the offer also includes satellite slots currently unused by
Mexico as well as future satellites.
CHANNEL 5 ON TRACK
Having completed its first week of being on the air, Britain's new
terrestrial network Channel 5 seems to have done better than expected.
The leading channels ITV and BBC1 may not have noticed, but the smaller
channels seem to get nervous. "BBC1 and ITV appear unaffected by the
arrival of Channel 5, while some erosion has been felt by Channel 4 and
BBC2," ITV network director Marcus Plantin told reporters. He pointed out
that ITV was the only channel to have increased its share of peak-time
viewing in the week following the launch of the new channel on March 30.
Channel 5 so far has reached a 3.8 market share in the prime time. It is
aiming at a 5 percent share at the end of this year.
COLOMBIAN RADIO ON AMERISTAR
The ambitious digital satellite service WorldSpace has another customer.
Colombia's Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN) has signed a contract to use the
company's digital audio radio satellite system. RCN will utilise
AMERISTAR, one of the three planned WorldSpace satellites. AFRISTAR, the
first of them is expected to be launched by mid-1998. It is scheduled to
be followed at six month intervals by the ASIASTAR and AMERISTAR
RCN currently uses an analogue sound subcarrier on satellite to broadcast
to Colombian expatriates in the New York City market area. This feed
probably won't be replaced by the AMERISTAR distribution as WorldSpace
aims at providing "international programmers with direct broadcast
capability for the 4.6 billion people that populate Latin America and the
Caribbean, Asia, Africa and the Middle East."
Accorsing to the company, other content providers with contracts and
reservations to use the WorldSpace system include the Voice of America,
Radio Nederland, Korea's New World Sky Media, Ray Power 100 FM of
Nigeria, Ghana Broadcasting and Kenya Radio & TV.
DILLER'S NEW NETWORK
Barry Diller, chairman of Home Shopping Network Inc., plans to pump
US$175 million into the launch of his new U.S. TV network by March 15,
1998. Diller said the money will be used to develop programming for at
least 15 of the 18 broadcast stations HSN will own by that time. Diller
has so far collected 12 UHF stations, minority stakes in seven UHF
stations and half-ownership of four Fox-affiliated VHF stations.
"I think we can get 5 percent to 10 percent of the audience," he said.
"That alone would create a very valuable asset and a new national TV
IRIDIUM'S FIRST THREE GATEWAYS
Scientific-Atlanta engineers have delivered three earth terminals that
comprise the first satellite communications gateway for the IRIDIUM
global communications system, which is planned by an international
consortium led by Motorola. The gateway, installed in Tempe, Arizona,
will undergo further integration and test activities before completion in
June. [Interesting -- there are no IRIDIUMs in orbit yet, or did I miss
anything? -- Ed.]
Scientific-Atlanta's Communications and Tracking Systems Division is
under contract to build 57 earth terminals. 43 earth terminals will be
used in communications gateways; 14 earth terminals will be used in the
system control segment that regulates the orbit of the IRIDIUM
satellites. System control segment earth terminals have been installed at
ground sites in Iceland, Canada, and Hawaii, as well as at a testing site
in Chandler, Arizona.
The communications gateway terminals comprise a 3-meter (10-foot) dish
inside a 5-meter (17-foot) radome and provide the communications link via
Ka-band (19.4-19.6 GHz for downlinks, 29.1-29.3 GHz for uplinks) between
the IRIDIUM constellation of low earth orbit communications satellites
and public-switched telephone networks. This network function makes
communications possible between IRIDIUM telephones and other telephones
around the world. [That's what Scientific-Atlanta said in a press
release. Frankly, 3-meter dishes seem to be a rather small given the fact
that uplink will take place in a delicate part of the frequency spectrum
where rain attenuation can reach exorbitant levels. -- Ed.]
The company also has a contract to provide maintenance and support to the
ground stations. Gateways will be owned and operated by Iridium, LLC.
investors. Additional installations are scheduled for Europe and South
America later this year.
MICROSPACE ON GALAXY IV
Microspace Communications Corporation acquired its third transponder on
GALAXY IV. This new capacity will be used to support Microspace's growing
data and audio satellite broadcast business.
Microspace describes itself as "the dominant satellite provider for the
business music, paging, financial and security industries." Its network
has grown to over 225,000 customer locations world-wide.
PANNING AND SCANNING
U.S. director Sydney Pollack wasn't too amused when Denmarks public
broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) aired one of his films in a pan-scanned
version. This reduces the black bars that frame the picture (at least on
most European channels as far as movies are concerned.) DR broadcast
Pollack's "Three Days of the Condor" in a format that reduced the actual
content shown by 50 percent whilst electronically panning to the part of
the picture where technicians felt something was going on.
Seeking a US$15,600 damage for this electronic form of vandalism, Pollack
filed a lawsuit -- and lost. A Danish Court unanimously ruled that his
contract with DR did not give him control over how his movie was
BLOOMBERG -- THE CHANNEL THAT MAKES YOU SICK WHILE WATCHING
You don't have to go on a cruise to get seasick. Nowadays, business TV
does the trick, and among all those products, those from Bloomberg make
you feel dizzy almost immediately. And they're even proud of it!
Viewers in Europe are advised to have their plastic bags handy because
Maxat, a television communications company wholly owned by France
Telecom, has launched Bloomberg Information Television in France, Italy,
and Germany. Digitally broadcast on EUTELSAT II-F3, it utilises
Scientific-Atlanta's PowerVu compression system.
How does it work? Here's an example. Every weekday morning the Bloomberg
bureau in France uplinks raw program footage to the Maxat digital
multimedia centre in London. The programming is relayed to the Bloomberg
office where it is edited, formatted, and returned to Maxat for digital
conversion and transmission via the PowerVu digital video compression
system to businesses, banks, and cable headends. This process is
completed in less than two hours, going on the air at 6:30 a.m. in
MICROSOFT BUYS WEB TV, PROPOSES TV STANDARDS
Now that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decreed the
introduction of digital TV by 2006, computer companies come up with their
(sometimes pretty weird) ideas of what television will look like in the
Software giant Microsoft Corp. has agreed to acquire privately-held WebTV
Networks Inc. for cash and stock valued at about US$425 million. The
Gates company said hopes the move will help it become a leader in the new
frontier of digital television where consumers can enjoy better pictures,
enhanced programming, Internet access and video and data feeds on their
televisions. [Almost everything of this is either untrue or simply not
wanted by most viewers. Originally regarded a super seller, Web-TV
devices dramatically flopped during the last Christmas shopping season.]
The deal marks Microsoft's biggest investment in the Internet to date.
The company also announced that the next releases of the Microsoft
Windows and Windows NT operating systems will enable PCs to receive video
and digital data from existing satellite, cable and terrestrial broadcast
sources. Not really, you have to buy some additional hardware: "The
enabling hardware for this technology is expected to add a nominal amount
to the cost of PCs," Microsoft added in a press release.
Simultaneously, Microsoft has in co-operation with Intel Corp. and Compaq
Computer Corp. proposed standards for a new generation of television
sets. According to the companies involved, their proposal would allow a
"significant improvement" in picture quality as well as transmission of
related information and data to personal computers, television and hybrid
devices. [Blah, blah. -- Ed.]
IBM UNVEILS DIGITAL TV PLANS
Of course, Microsoft does not hold the exclusive right to err. IBM
announced LogiCast, a solution [what problem does it solve, by the way?
-- Ed.] that combines all of the technologies and services needed to
implement digital broadcasting of both video and data. With LogiCast,
broadcasters, satellite service providers, cable and telephone companies
can create new services and lower costs today while building on their
existing infrastructure to move, incrementally, into digital
broadcasting, IBM said in -- what else -- a press release.
"The conversion of video from analog to digital formats is accelerating
around the world, enabling new revenue-generating broadcast services
through greater channel capacity, as well as improving video and audio
quality," said Dr. William H. Beckmann, vice president, IBM Video Enabled
Solutions. The press release did not state whether he showed any kind of
emotion while lying about the video and audio quality, which actually
decreases when signals get digitally compressed.
[One may not note any difference, although I do in most cases. Just have
a look a the analogue distribution of the new German service Phoenix via
ASTRA. The feed is clearly taken from the channel's digital distribution.
The digital protagonists so far claimed that digital TV was at least as
good as a home video recording, but they have been proven wrong. The
Phoenix signal, for instance, is even worse than what my very first
camcorder used to record, and that was just 200 horizontal lines. My
current Panasonic S-VHS-C camcorder produces much better pictures than
every digital channel I've had the misfortune to watch so far. Believe or
not, signals simply cannot get any better be omitting allegedly
superfluous information, however digital they may be. Anybody who claims
that is either totally ignorant or a slick liar. -- Ed.]
Okay, I have to get back to IBM somehow. They claim to be active in
Europe, actually. Stream, a multimedia group formed by Italy's
telecommunications company STET, has IBM as general contractor and
systems integrator. IBM says it provided a complete digital video
broadcasting solution which includes over 2,000 components from
themselves and 40 suppliers. The cable-based system has been serving
Stream customers since September 1996.
Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights
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