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Sat-ND, 10.4.97




Sat-ND 97-04-10 - Satellite and Media News

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TODAY'S HEADLINES:
SATELLITES
* STORMY WEATHER
* KOSMOS 2340 LAUNCHED
* ORION 2 WITH JAPANESE PAYLOAD
LINKS & FEEDS
* CNN TO SWITCH
* INTELSAT K'S SWEET SECRET: THE BROADCAST MODE
DIGITAL
* SPACE TV V/S STAR TV?
* NOSTALGIE A DEUX
* ASTRA TO WORK INTERNET WONDERS REAL SOON
FEEDBACK: SAT-ND, 8.4.97
* CHANNEL 5 VIEWING FIGURES
RUPERTWATCH
* WHY RUPERT WENT TO WASHINGTON, D.C.

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Another Editorial Note

As stated earlier, please don't expect daily delivery of Sat-ND during
the next week or so. Thank you for your Email, should you have sent me
some. I hope to be able to answer it later. (I'm not ill by the way, just
busy.)



SATELLITES

STORMY WEATHER
If satellites had some defence shields to put up, now would be the time
to do it as another magnetic cloud from the sun is heading towards Earth.
A NASA spokesman confirmed that a huge outburst of energy had taken place
and called it a "major event," but according to latest readings the
centre of the storm was expected to miss the Earth. Still "it could be
broad enough to affect Earth's space environment and could cause
increased auroral activity at high latitudes," NASA said. There is a good
example how the space environment could be effected: At the same time
last January when TELSTAR 401 went silent a magnetic cloud had reached
the geostationary orbit. (So, don't be surprised when you point your dish
at you favourite satellite tomorrow and receive nothing.) But solar
storms just haven't killed communications satellites, they also affect
power supply on Earth as well as shortwave communications. At least, they
don't pose a physical danger to Earthlings.
The magnetic cloud was expected to hit Earth tonight; its effects (if
any) may last 12 to 48 hours. The new solar storm was detected last
Monday by SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which has been
monitoring the sun since 1995. 


KOSMOS 2340 LAUNCHED
Yesterday, the Russian Space Force launched what Western news reports
called a spy satellite. The Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that
the satellite was put into orbit by a four-stage Molnia-M rocket, fired
off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. All its onboard equipment is said to
operate normally.


ORION 2 WITH JAPANESE PAYLOAD
Japan's NEC will supply the entire communications payload aboard ORION 2.
Under the 3.4-billion deal, the company will act as subcontractor for
Matra Marconi Space. ORION 2 satellite is expected to be launched in June
1999.



LINKS & FEEDS

CNN TO SWITCH 
NTL has announced a multi-million pound, five-year deal with Turner
Broadcasting Systems Inc. (TBS) to provide contribution feeds from CNN's
European Production Centre in London to the network's headquarters in
Atlanta, Georgia. 
The MPEG2-based digital link will replace CNN's existing analogue link,
providing the international news network with access to multiple feeds
via Intelsat 601. As a result CNN will reduce transmission costs while
greatly increasing feed capacity, thereby allowing simultaneous Satellite
News Gathering (SNG) and bureau feeds between Europe and the US. 
The new service will commence in May, enabling the London Production
Centre to send news items to Atlanta for fast compilation and insertion
into CNN's domestic and international. [And if I may add this, it will
not at all enhance the already lousy picture quality, which probably is
the result of multiple PAL/NTSC conversions as well as multiple
analogue/digital conversions, but nonetheless delivered by CNN
International to its European audience.]
NTL currently uplinks TBS's European news and entertainment services on a
common digital multiplex to Astra 1E as part of an eight-year deal
announced last September, as well as providing analogue distribution
services on Astra 1C. 


INTELSAT K'S SWEET SECRET: THE BROADCAST MODE
Who said that analogue feeds were dead? The're not. Vyvx International
Limited has announced to launch a "revolutionary occasional-use video
satellite service on April 17, with high power, simultaneous Ku-band
coverage of North America, South America and Europe" -- and it will be
fully analogue, according to the company's press release.
The hub of the new service is Vyvx International's new, fully-meshed
transponder on the INTELSAT K. Making use of a special "broadcast mode"
configuration in the satellite, this transponder receives from either of
the INTELSAT K uplink beams and projects to all of the downlink beams
simultaneously. Despite covering North and South America and Europe, the
downlink beams maintain the normal power of INTELSAT K transponders.
Because all satellite beams remain switched on at all times, operations
for intercontinental broadcasting become as simple as a local feed.
Whether a broadcaster is transmitting from a mobile or fixed earth
station, the uplinker can see a return signal from the satellite -- even
when the uplink is in Europe and the destination downlink is in South
America, or the uplink is in the USA and the downlink in Europe. "It's
like having two or three transponders in one," noted Simon Patch,
managing director of Vyvx International. 



DIGITAL

SPACE TV V/S STAR TV?
Details of a new Asian-language digital service named Space TV begin to
emerge. As reported in Sat-ND (2.4.97,) Space TV Systems intends to
initially deliver eight channels of Chinese video programming and ten
channels of audio to its subscribers in different markets, using four
36-MHz transponders on three satellites located at different orbital
slots.
The service will be launched next month, reaching audiences in Eastern
Asia, North America and Australia. Four transponders on three different
satellites will be used: one each on INTELSAT 511 and SBS5 for North
America, two on INTELSAT 702. While one of those transponders is on the
satellite's Australian beam, the other one reaches China. Of course,
Space TV does not expect any Chinese customers (as direct reception is
not allowed there.) The company said it was targeting Taiwan
businesspeople in South China.
The initial line-up will comprise five channels in Mandarin and Taiwanese
plus one each in Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese. Within the first year,
Space TV expects 150,000 subscribers -- in fact, that's also the number
of set-top boxes ordered from the Taiwanese computer manufacturer Acer.
The conditional access technology will be supplied by France Telecom.
But that's just the start. Space TV expects to grow to a 120-channel
pay-per-view service in 1998, offering also near video-on-demand services
and targeting the Greater China mass market.


NOSTALGIE A DEUX
French Groupe AB announced it has signed an agreement with Radio
Nostalgie, one of the top five FM radio stations in France, to launch a
thematic music television channel under the Nostalgie brand name.
The Nostalgie Channel, which is 100 percent owned by Groupe AB, will be
broadcast on AB Sat's digital TV service and will replace the Melody
channel in AB Sat's basic programming package. Under the agreement,
Groupe AB will pay Radio Nostalgie for use of the Nostalgie brand name on
a per subscriber basis. In addition, the sale of advertising space on the
new channel will be subcontracted to Radio Nostalgie.
Under a separate agreement, Groupe AB has agreed to provide the Nostalgie
Channel to Canalsatellite Numérique, Canal Plus' digital satellite
service, which will also broadcast the channel in its basic package of
digital TV service.


ASTRA TO WORK INTERNET WONDERS
(Holger Zeissler, the master keeper of all Luxembourg press releases, has
forwarded me another one. Cheers mate!)
European Satellite Multimedia Services S.A. Luxembourg (ESM) is pleased
to announce that Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (DTAG) and Hughes Network
Systems, USA, will participate in the recently founded multimedia via
satellite company. Société Européenne des Satellites (SES), Intel and the
Luxembourg P&T are the initial shareholders, with SES maintaining the
majority.
ESM will launch ASTRA-NET, described by the company as an "open and
neutral communications platform which will use the ASTRA Satellite System
for the transmission of a wide range of services directly to PCs in
businesses and homes via broadband satellite at substantially increased
speed compared to standard telephone lines." 
Using the advantages of broadband delivery, point-to-multipoint
distribution and the pan-European reach of the ASTRA Satellite System
[ha, ha! Just ask folks in Greece how pan-European ASTRA *really* is,]
ASTRA-NET will provide businesses with a turnkey solution to deliver
their data and multimedia content cost-effectively to connected PCs by
utilising substantial speed and efficiency improvements for their
communications processes. [But that's what they all say, isn't it? I'll
spare you usual wash of unproven figures promising incredible
transmission rates -- your hard disk drive couldn't cope with them
anyway.]
What maybe of interest, though, is that ASTRA-Net expects to be
operational in the second half of 1997.



FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 8.4.97

CHANNEL 5 VIEWING FIGURES
Won't disagree with the percentages but if they were taken as percentages
compared to the number of people who can receive Channel 5 they would be
significantly higher. The population of the Isle of Cumbrae - the bicycle
island is approx. 1600 and none of them can receive it. Nor can anyone on
the adjacent mainland of Scotland - population around 20,000.
(Sandy Millport on the bicycle island)

Well, I had a closer look at all the reports on this subject in my
archive, and interestingly not a single one stated how many viewers
Channel 5 actually reaches right now! However, until the end of this year
they hope to reach 80 percent of UK households. Besides, officials
announced the channel would be available on ASTRA soon -- unscrambled,
but observers expect Videocrypt soft-scrambling to be used (i.e., a
videocrypt decoder would be needed in order to receiver the channel but
no viewing card.)



RUPERTWATCH
by Dr Sarmaz

WHY RUPERT WENT TO WASHINGTON, D.C.
"Sky is willing to risk a US$3 billion capital investment to bring
consumers a better choice." Nobody else but Rupert Murdoch himself could
have made such a truly unselfish statement at the occasion of lobbying
this monstrous U.S. digital TV service in co-operation with MCI and
EchoStar. Mr Murdoch went to Washington, D.C. in person to convince
lawmakers that Sky, formerly known as ASkyB, was truly a good thing.
Beaming no less than 500 channels to pizza-sized dishes, some content is
needed. Local channels will be delivered to local audiences, using
elaborated conditional access technology incorrectly labelled
"spotbeaming." Sky plans to offer local broadcast stations to 75 percent
of the nation's households by the end of 1998, Murdoch said.
This would require a change of U.S. copyright laws, and that's why Mr.
Murdoch went to Washington, D.C. "He's going to sound like the saviour.
He's going to present himself like the saviour. Members of Congress will
watch and applaud. But we'd better watch our wallets," warned Stephen
Effros, president of the Cable Telecommunications Association, a trade
group representing cable operators.
According to congressional and industry sources, Mr Murdoch even wanted
to attach the new copyright measure to a "must-pass" U$4 billion spending
package that appropriates money for U.S. peacekeeping troops in Bosnia
and disaster relief. One might really wonder what Mr Murdoch's digital TV
has got to do with disaster relief (or Bosnia, for that matter.)
Of course, Mr Murdoch played the whole thing down when he addressed
Senate panel today. The eight million subscribers expected by 2002 "will
hardly put cable out of business," Mr Murdoch told a Senate panel. "But
eight million customers can provide a profitable business for us, a
choice for consumers and an improved cable product for those who might be
unwise enough to reject Sky service and stick with cable."
It all sounded somewhat different back in February when Mr Murdoch's new
partner, Charles Ergen, chief executive officer of EchoStar, said this:
"Our goal is not to be complimentary to cable, we want to eliminate
cable." Am I completely misled, or is there a slight contradiction to
what the saviour... I mean, Mr Murdoch told U.S. lawmakers? (No
criticism, let alone Rupert-bashing, just wondering ;-)



Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights
reserved.

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