Sat-ND 97-06-09 - Looking at the Big Sky
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LAST WEEK'S HEADLINES:
* KOSMOS 2344 UP, BUT RUNNING?
* TWO GO UP WITH ARIANE
* FROM ASTRA TO AMOS
* BILL'S WATCHING TV
* EBU TO GO DIGITAL ONCE MORE
* BBC PRIME TO JOIN BBC WORLD
* CAN'T HEAR. CAN'T WATCH. SO WHAT?
* THE SECOND HALF SEASONALITY FACTOR
FEEDBACK: SAT-ND, 2.6.97
* FROM THE URAL TO THE MALDIVES
* LISTEN, BILL!
* RUPERT'S PRIMESTAR DEAL IMMINENT
* RUPERT QUICKIES
*** Sat-ND summer break: June 24 - July 9, 1997 ***
No, it was not that fully-automated and hyper-intelligent Majordomo that
kicked you off this list. (Should that ever happen, don't hesitate to
re-subscribe.) No, there just were no relevant news over the past few days,
or rather: I simply was too busy to write anything. Sorry for that,
especially as some readers complained about withdrawal symptoms ;-) For the
next two weeks or so, Sat-ND will be published more or less daily. After
that, I'll have my summer break and go to a place where you definitely
can't reach me via email. And after that, I repeat myself... who knows?
This may be the end of Sat-ND as you know it <g> -- PC
KOSMOS 2344 UP, BUT RUNNING?
Russia's Space Forces latest launch of a military satellite seems to have
been a success. KOSMOS 2344 was launched lasted Friday evening from the
cosmodrome in Baikonur and was orbited on Saturday with the parameters
close to the calculated, reported Itar-Tass. "The period of circulation
around the earth is 2 hours 10 minutes, the orbit inclination is 63.3
degrees, the maximum distance from the earth is 2,749 kilometres, the
minimum distance is 1,516 kilometres." KOSMOS 2344 was launched aboard a
Proton-K. It is the 245th launch of a Proton since 1965.
According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, an embarrassing incident may
render the satellite useless. Both the booster and the satellite hit a gate
and were damaged when the rocket was taken out of its hangar to the
launching pad in May, the paper said. Although the damage was fixed,
Kommersant suggested that the satellite will not be able to function
properly, and would end up as a "piece of iron" in orbit. It also quoted
the space forces' command and the Defence Ministry as saying that that
there was anything wrong with the satellite.
TWO GO UP WITH ARIANE
Arianespace successfully launched the INMARSAT 3-F4 satellite for the
International Mobile Satellite Organisation INMARSAT and INSAT-2D for the
Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO during the night of June 3-4. Both
of these operators have been Ariane customers for more than 15 years.
Flight 97 was carried out by an Ariane 44L, the most powerful version of
the European launcher with four liquid-propellant strap-on boosters. This
was the 67th Ariane 4 launched of the total of 96 ordered from the European
INMARSAT 3-F4 is the fifth satellite launched by Ariane for the
International Mobile Satellite Organisation. Built by Lockheed Martin
Telecommunications in East Windsor, New Jersey (USA), INMARSAT-3F4 will
provide mobile telecommunications services in the Atlantic Ocean region. It
weighed in at 1,999 kg (4,398 lb.) at launch and provides a capacity of 150
INSAT-2D, the fifth Indian satellite to be launched by Arianespace, was
designed and built in India by ISRO for the Indian government. Weighing
2,079 kg (4,574 lb) at launch, it has a triple payload for fixed
communications services, television broadcasting and mobile communications.
Located above the Maldives Islands, it will serve the entire Indian
INSAT 2D has 23 high power transponders two of which are somewhat special.
A Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) transponder will enable the Department of
Telecommunications to offer Mobile Telephone Services over the Indian
Subcontinent by July. The Broadcast Satellite Service (BSS) transponder
will be used for TV news and other feeds.
Following Flight 97, Arianespace now has 38 satellites on order to be
launched. The next launch, Flight 96, is scheduled for June 25 when an
Ariane 44P launch vehicle will place INTELSAT 802 into orbit.
FROM ASTRA TO AMOS
Hungarian Broadcasting Corp. (HBCO) announced that it has signed a
satellite distribution contract with Antenna Hungaria using space on the
Amos satellite. Service is expected to begin June 26, 1997. Antenna
Hungaria will provide satellite-to-cable transmission services for HBCO's
Hungarian broadcasting station, MSAT, to cable operators in Hungary. This
distribution is in addition to the AM Micro transmission in Budapest.
Hungarian Broadcasting Corp., also signed a termination agreement with
Nethold Development B.V., effective June 30, 1997, whereby Nethold will
cease transmitting MSAT's signal on the ASTRA satellite. This follows
Nethold's previously announced intentions to reduce its business activities
in Hungary. As compensation to Hungarian Broadcasting for the direct and
indirect costs of this service cancellation, Nethold has agreed to pay HBCO
BILL'S WATCHING TV
It is said that William Henry ("Bill") Gates III isn't too fond of watching
television. Investing in television is a different story, though. Gates'
Microsoft Corp. already owns 50 percent of the cable channel MSNBC and has
recently announced to acquire WebTV, a company that tries to offer a
limited Internet access to couch potatoes, i.e. television viewers.
Today, Microsoft and Comcast Corp. today announced that Microsoft will make
an investment of US$1 billion in Comcast, the nation's fourth-largest cable
television operator and a diversified telecommunications company. The cash
investment would enhance Comcast's deployment of high-speed data and video
services via its cable delivery network.
"Our vision for connecting the world of PCs and TVs has long included
advanced broadband capabilities to deliver video, data and interactivity to
the home," said Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft. "Like Comcast,
Microsoft has always believed that increasing network bandwidth is a key to
the eventual convergence of the Internet, the PC and the TV," commented
Greg Maffei, vice president of corporate development at Microsoft.
This isn't the first time Microsoft executives don't assess the situation
right -- remember, two years ago the Internet didn't even seem to exist
from Microsoft's point of view. While there maybe something like
convergence on a technical level, there will be no fundamental change of
viewing habits. Couch potatoes probably couldn't care less about the way
soap operas, talk shows and other wastes of time take before they appear on
their screens. Keeping this in mind, the Microsoft investment in Comcast
actually makes sense, regardless of all the convergence blurb.
Comcast Corp. is engaged in the development, management and operation of
wired telecommunications, including cable television and telephone
services; wireless telecommunications, including cellular, personal
communications services and direct-to-home satellite television; and what
the company calls "content." That means, above all, principal ownership of
QVC (rather frivolous to call that "content") and a controlling interest in
EBU TO GO DIGITAL ONCE MORE
The European Broadcasting Union is to digitalise its internal Eurovision
transmission network. (Once again! I can remember similar announcements
from two or three years ago.) Used for distributing and exchanging
programmes among the EBU's broadcaster members, this network covers the
whole of Europe as well as northern Africa and the Middle East. It uses
transponders on the Eutelsat II-F4M satellite with a capacity of seven TV
channels, which will be increased to over 20 when transmissions become
digital, and 55 transmit and receive earth stations.
The standard adopted is professional profile MPEG-2, one of the most
advanced digital compression techniques. The EBU will thus be in a position
to diversify the services provided to broadcasters, to offer what in a
grotesque misjudgement of facts they still dare calling 'superior technical
quality' while at the same time reducing transmission costs.
The company NDS has been selected by the EBU as the supplier of the digital
coding equipment required for adapting the Eurovision network.
The EBU, whose activities include Eurovision and Euradio, is a professional
association of national (mostly public) broadcasters with its headquarters
in Geneva, Switzerland. It currently has 66 members in 49 countries.
BBC PRIME TO JOIN BBC WORLD
European Channel Management, which markets and distributes BBC World and
BBC Prime, has announced that from this August it will transmit both
television channels on EUTELSAT II-F1 at 13 deg. East, using
digital/analogue simulcasting on the 36 MHz wide transponder 38.
BBC Prime, a 24-hour entertainment pay-TV channel, will be available in
continental Europe on a digital, DVB compatible carrier. The analogue
transmission of BBC World, a round-the-clock news and information channel
which broadcasts in analogue in the clear, will be unaffected .
"European Channel Management's transponder is the eighth at 13 degrees
East to switch to simulcast mode," said Jean Grenier, Eutelsat Director
CAN'T HEAR. CAN'T WATCH. SO WHAT?
Starting next August, Swedish citizens will not only be exposed to
radiation from digital radio broadcasts without any possibility to hear
what is on. Terrestrial digital television will be introduced applying a
similar method, meaning that no viewers will be able to watch.
DAB radio is in full swing in Sweden since 1995, at least in some cities.
It is hard to check where exactly as there are no receivers available on
the market. As Teracom, the Swedish public company responsible for the
transmitters, now launches digital television, history repeats itself.
Teracom recently disclosed its plans for terrestrial digital television.
Four Swedish cities, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Gothenburg are
selected for the grand launch. Initially there will be four channels which
will be extended to eight in December. By then, even more cities will have
digital terrestrial transmitters.
Teracom plans to serve 50 percent of the Swedish population with digital TV
within a year's time. In order to watch the digital channels you must have
a decoder or a digital receiver, but unfortunately there is no supply of
either to the Swedish market. Whether there is any customer demand also
remains more than unclear.
THE SECOND HALF SEASONALITY FACTOR
Satellite dishes may soon be able to receive terrestrial TV stations as
well. That statement was probably wrong, I think there are already devices
that can do so, I just can't find the respective press releases in my
archive right now. Anyway, it doesn't matter as the development of such
antennas is by no means a technical sensation even though it took Thomson
Consumer Electronics' technology centre in Indianapolis, USA, 18 months to
develop "the third generation of RCA 18-inch satellite systems." It
comprises three new models, starting at a suggested retail price of US$449.
Each new system includes the multi-purpose antenna dish which is designed
to have the capability to receive one or more local station signals when
properly installed and adjusted. (In other words: if it doesn't work, it
either your fault or the terrestrial signal is too weak.)
David L. Spomer, Vice President, DBS and DVD Product Management, said
Thomson's basic approach to the new reception capabilities will be one of
helping the dealer determine local TV feasibility of the new system based
on such factors as the strength of the local broadcast signal, the distance
and direction of the local station's transmitter from a consumer's home,
and the location of the antenna dish. (Child's play!) Interestingly, he
pointed that as with any antenna the quality of the off-air signal
delivered by the new antenna dish is influenced by many factors.
Though some geographically dispersed tests of local TV reception have
indicated that homes located in urban areas could receive some local
television stations, Spomer said the company plans to take a conservative
marketing approach with the new antenna dish that essentially says, "This
could work for you." What at truly convincing reason to buy such a gadget,
especially as terrestrial analogue TV will be phased out in the U.S.
probably sooner than in any other country.
However, all this may not even have made its way into Sat-ND hadn't Sporner
also said this: "At this point, we expect the strong second half
seasonality factor to help drive industry sales of digital satellite
systems to nearly two million systems sales to dealers in 1997." I have the
impression that "the second half seasonality factor" is, in general,
newspeak for the Christmas shopping season.
* The new French government is expected to change the countries media law,
reported Le Monde. The paper expects that the ownership rules for TV
companies will be tightened up while the planned merger between public
television broadcasters Arte and La Septième would be approved. In
addition, a deal tying the French public broadcasters exclusively to the
TPS digital satellite service for three years "will almost certainly be
* CNN has launched a German-language segment of fifteen minutes per
weekday. As far as Europe is concerned, it's the first time the world-wide
news channel broadcasts in another language than English. Regarded as an
experiment, the German news will be restricted to 3.5 million cable
households in Northrhine-Westphalia for the time being. According to CNN
Vice president Chris Cramer, one out of four European CNN viewers live in
Germany. CNN is a major shareholder of the fledgling German-language news
channel n-tv (market share in May: 0.4 percent) that recently has announced
its umpteenth relaunch.
* A pro-Beijing group celebrating Hong Kong's upcoming return to China July
1 is offering a 96-hours non-stop satellite feed of the handover
festivities to counter what they regard "negative reporting." Called "The
Association for the Celebration of Reunification of Hong Kong with China,"
the organisation hopes to get its propaganda across by offering free
satellite feeds. "Hong Kong Telecoms will sponsor the uplink," a
spokeswoman said. "Television stations overseas which want to downlink will
[...] not need to pay us anything."
* Britain's Channel 5 is on target, chief executive David Elstein said last
week in a reaction to growing criticism. "Before the end of the year we
expect to be in more than 70 percent of UK homes and to achieve five
percent weekly shares," Elstein said in a statement.
Channel 5 attracted five million viewers, its best audience to date, with
live coverage of the Poland-England World Cup soccer match. Elstein
admitted the match was a "watershed." The channel's average weekly viewing
share still remains at 2.7 percent, about half of what was expected.
According to Elstein, Channel 5 was succeeding in its drive to win younger
viewers, saying that more than a third of its audience falling into the
FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 2.6.97
FROM THE URAL TO THE MALDIVES
I wrote that the first Lockheed Martin Intersputnik satellite deployed will
be Lockheed Martin's A2100 on a Proton launch vehicle in late 1998, and
that it would be positioned over the Ural Mountains. Andy Smith remarked
that "They also lie between 50 and 65 deg north latitude. How will the
satellite stay above them? Will power?" It doesn't really matter because
this statement was completely wrong anyway. The answer to your question
comes from T.J. Brewer: "Satellite position of LMI-1 is to be at 75 degrees
East, or almost above Maldives islands if one needs the geographical
reference, where it can cover all of Russia (European and Asian), Asia,
Africa, most of Europe and part of Australia."
I also wrote that "Intersputnik officials acknowledged that Lockheed Martin
was able to clinch the deal by paying cash down." Mr Brewer remarks that
"It was not stated at press brief that LM gave cash to Intersputnik, but
that they provided better financing than Aerospatiale and others were
prepared to offer." While this holds true, of course, the information about
the cash payment was reported by The Associated Press (no, Sat-ND does not
consist just of reworded press releases.)
Why does the latest version of Microsoft Internet Mail always crash when I
copy portions from emails and paste them to Word 97? Any ideas, darling?
I'm really thinking of buying Eudora Pro 3.0 instead, y'know. Just too
annoying that is.
by Dr Sarmaz
RUPERT'S PRIMESTAR DEAL IMMINENT
News Corp. and PrimeStar Partners last week prepared to seal their
long-awaited merger which could be announced any time now. The deal will
probably call for News Corp.'s ASkyB to contribute its DBS license for the
110 deg. West orbital slot, its two high-power satellites currently under
construction and their Arizona uplink facilities to PrimeStar. As far as I
know, PrimeStar does not offer any high-power DBS service right now. News
Corp. would in return receive a 30 percent, nonvoting stake in the new,
publicly traded company.
Tele-Communications Inc.(TCI) and Mr Murdoch's arch rival Time Warner
Inc., the two leading cable operators in the current PrimeStar venture, may
each get a 26 percent to 28 percent stake in the new PrimeStar. The
remaining four partners (U S West Media Group, Comcast Corp., Cox
Communications Inc. and General Electric American Communications Inc.) will
split the remaining 16 percent to 18 percent.
* Kerry Stokes, president of Australia's Seven Network Ltd. television
broadcasting outfit, is reportedly threatening to sell his controlling 24.9
percent stake in the company if Australia's new government loosens
media-ownership rights as announced. Stokes announced that "if those sorts
of levels are introduced, I would review my own position." If the
government were determined to have the media carved up between Rupert
Murdoch's News Corp. and Kerry Packer's PBL, "there is no place for me or
* Lachlan Murdoch, elder son of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, will
become chairman of News Ltd., the holding company for its Australian media
operations, effective July 1. He will replace executive chairman Ken
Cowley, who is retiring at the end of this month. Industry analysts expect
Lachlan Murdoch rather than his sister Elisabeth to gain control of News
Corp. once their father steps down.
Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights
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