Sat-ND, 4.8.97

Sat-ND, 04.08.97 -- Blast from the past
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Today's Headlines

Disney unleashed?
More SciFi in the UK and Eire
ATM via satellite
Samsung brings DirecPC to South Korea
BSkyB holds the digital key
Memorandum of digital understanding
Italian watchdog to be established
SuperKarel to strike again?

Editorial blurb

Well, sorry, still no regular Sat-ND. Instead, you'll find mostly older news [contradictio in adjectu] from the last week. Actually, they may even be older than that. I guess that concludes my attempt to catch up with recent developments. Or did I miss anything? If so, please tell me. Readers' contributions are always welcome -- c'mon, why should I do all the writing?!


Disney unleashed?

According to the Independent newspaper, pay-TV operator British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) is set to announce changes in the way it packages its programs, the Independent newspaper reported.
In effect, cable and satellite television viewers would be able to sign up for the Disney Channel without also having to subscribe to two film channels. Up to now, the Disney Channel can only be received when also subscribing to Sky Movies and the Movie Channel as part of Sky's Premium Bonus package.
The Independent Television Commission (ITC), the watchdog which oversees commercial television in Britain, has been investigating the way BSkyB markets its channels. The paper said BSkyB was taking pre-emptive action before the ITC delivered its verdict, but it was unclear who would want to subscribe to a stand-alone Disney Channel anyway.
Besides, he ITC is now likely to launch a more extensive investigation into the issue of unbundling. That affects not only BSkyB but also the planned terrestrial digital service BDB, owned by Granada Group and Carlton Communications. The ITC had indicated BDB may in future be obliged to let consumers pick and choose channels without having to pay extra instead of offering twelve basic and three premium channels.

More SciFi in the UK and Eire

Effective September 1st, Sci-Fi Channel becomes a 7-day-a week DTH service to UK and Eire satellite homes, broadcasting from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. The move enables the Channel to broadcast an additional 20 hours of sci-fi programming per week to Sky DTH subscribers, an increase of more than 35 per cent.
This is the second increase in satellite hours for the Channel since its UK launch in November 1995. At present, the Channel is available from 20:00 to 04:00 Monday to Wednesday, and from 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. Thursday to Sunday. In order to extend its satellite time, Sci-Fi Channel will switch from transponder 47 on Astra 1C to transponder 24 on Astra 1B. On cable, Sci-Fi Channel remains available to subscribers from 7:30 a.m. to 4.00 a.m. daily, as it has been since launch nearly two years ago.
The Sci-Fi Channel is operated by USA Networks International, a partnership between Viacom/Paramount and Universal Studios. Available to over 55 million TV households globally, the Channels distribution territories include the United States, Europe, Latin America and Brazil. Sci-Fi Channel Europe can be seen via cable and satellite in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, via cable in the Netherlands, as well as via satellite in Southern Africa.


ATM via satellite

U.S. Communications company Sprint is testing Comsat World Systems' satellite-based Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) transmission service internationally with Hong Kong Telecom and Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd.
This represents one of the earliest tests of multipoint ATM via satellite, where several carriers connect to each other. Through its Advanced Technology Laboratories, Sprint has connected the technology to the networks of Hong Kong Telecom and Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. Further expansion of the trial to Singapore and Thailand is expected later this year. The new ATM-via-satellite service employs technology developed by Comsat Laboratories.
ATM is an advanced, broadband switching and multiplexing technology that enables high-speed, high-bandwidth applications -- including voice, data, image, video and multimedia -- to be transmitted over a single network simultaneously.
Under the scope of this field trial, Sprint is testing the interoperability of different ATM switches, link performance and broadband applications that will be able to facilitate high-resolution imaging, real-time broadcast video, tele-medicine, videoconferencing, broadband networking, collaborative applications and advanced Internet services.
Sprint also sees the trial as a building block for newer, more exciting technologies, such as ATM via satellite to the desktop.
Comsat World Systems and Comsat Laboratories are business units of Comsat Corp, a global provider of communications services and products and U.S. Intelsat signatory.


Samsung brings DirecPC to South Korea

Samsung SDS Co., Ltd., the information and communications subsidiary of the Samsung Group, announced that it had signed a contract with U.S.-based Hughes Network System Inc. to introduce DirecPC, a service that offers Internet and other multimedia services via satellite.
DirecPC, already available in the United States, Canada and Europe, is expected to be a popular online multimedia service in South Korea, reported the local Maeil Business Newspaper.
The system features high-speed Internet service at over 400kbps, large-sized file transfers at 3Mbps and MPEG-1 real-time video, a Samsung SDS official was reported as saying.

BSkyB holds the digital key

Talks between the BBC and British Sky Broadcasting over the digital transmission of BBC programming are close to breaking down, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The companies reportedly could not agree on the sum BBC should pay for using BSkyB's digital platform. According to the report, BSkyB is seeking almost £300million more than the BBC is prepared to pay. While BSkyB is planning to launch its 200-channel digital satellite BIB service early next year, the BBC plans to develop additional content for free and pay channels.

Memorandum of digital understanding

Major Italian television broadcasters and media groups have reached a preliminary deal for the creation of a single digital television platform. A joint statement said full details of the long-awaited agreement would be finalised by the end of September.
The accord involves communications group Mediaset, state broadcaster RAI, state-controlled telecoms group Telecom Italia, French broadcaster Canal Plus and its majority owned Italian pay-TV unit, Telepiu, as well as Cecchi Gori Communications.
"The co-operation agreement will not limit itself just to Italy but can also be extended to the international markets, particularly as regards Mediterranean countries and east European countries," the statement said. The platform would be made available to third parties, no timetable was given for the project. The accord would respect both national and European anti-trust regulations.
Italy's antitrust authority earlier this year criticised plans for the creation of a single digital platform for Italy as such an alliance might dominate the domestic digital pay-TV market.
There has never been some kind of digital decoder war in Italy as the audience, which has access to a multitude of free terrestrial channels, couldn't care less about pay-TV. Actually, Telepiù was the first European digital satellite network when in was launched back in 1995. So far, the service has attracted less than one percent of the country's TV households. This won't change too much when Telecom Italia and pubcaster RAI will launch their a joint-venture company to offer theme channels for pay television which will be developed within the framework of an overall digital television project.
So, what about the "other countries" mentioned? As far as pay-TV is concerned, they're so far dominated by Canal+ which has recently taken over a majority stake in Telepiù, which by the way is also expected to become the holding company that controls the Italian digital platform.


Italian watchdog to be established

Meanwhile, the Italian parliament approved a measure creating a regulatory body in charge of limiting media ownership in Italy's broadcast industry and of overseeing telecommunications.
Following months of debate over the fate of Italy's public and private TV networks, the legislature established a new authority to monitor anti-trust regulations in broadcasting and future satellite networks. It will be set up in September.
One of its tasks is to oversee the conversion of one of the three national terrestrial networks owned by the media mogul and conservative politician Silvio Berlusconi into a satellite channel. RAI will have to limit advertising to two of its three networks
The new authority will also oversee the privatisation of the state-owned telecommunications giant Telecom Italia SpA, which is scheduled for October.

SuperKarel to strike again?

Will Brussels once again stop the common digital TV platform in Germany? The association of privately-owned cable operators (ANGA) has filed a complaint with the EU commission, claiming that the combination of the country's two leading media companies Bertelsmann and Kirch with the still state-controlled telecommunications and cable monolith Deutsche Telekom would pose a serious threat to free competition.
ANGA said in its complaint that the companies were bundling their zones of influence to gain a predominant position not only in Germany but also in neighbouring and new markets. Smaller competitors would in effect be kept out of new markets, the development of privately-owned cable networks would become almost impossible.
The price hike of 15 percent for additional digital services in cable networks, which may be planned by Telekom, was "abusive" and would make cable customers switch to direct-to-home satellite reception. (It affects customers of privately-owned cable networks as well as they usually get their channels from Deutsche Telekom.)
EU commissioner Karel van Miert has according to German news magazine Der Spiegel confirmed that he would have a closer look at the recently announced co-operation of Bertelsmann, Kirch and Telekom. He said he already received "some complaints from people who were seriously worried about digital TV in Germany."
If I remember correctly, the EU commission had stopped a similar venture more than two years ago. Attempts to revive the common digital platform failed last year, that time without intervention from Brussels.

Copyright 08/97 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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