Measat COO Confident Of Company’s HD Prospects

By | August 14, 2007 | Broadcasting, Feature

Measat Satellite Systems is confident the launch of its new high-definition (HD) platform will give it an edge in the competitive market in Asia, Paul Brown-Kenyon, Measat’s COO, told Satellite News.

The operator launched an HD distribution platform in July aimed at catering to the needs of international broadcasters wanting to bring more HD content to the Asia-Pacific region. The platform, which will distribute content via the Measat-3 satellite, was developed with Ascent Media and Pacific Century Matrix, which are providing play-out and uplink services  from Singapore and Hong Kong. Scientific Atlanta and Tandberg Television also contributed.

The platform is “distinct in a number of ways,” said Brown-Kenyon. “… This satellite provides one of the most powerful video distribution platforms in the region, accessing over 100 countries or 70 percent of the world’s population. Secondly, with the launch of a second satellite into the 91.5 [degrees] East orbital location in 2008, the platform guarantees sufficient transponder capacity to meet the significant bandwidth requirements of a HD platform as the segment develops and provides customers with a highly robust satellite system. Finally, our collaborative approach of working with uplink providers and equipment vendors provides broadcasters with additional support key to developing the market.”

Brown-Kenyon hopes the platform will open up the HD market in Asia. “The HD segment in the Asia-Pacific television landscape is presently limited to a small number of developed media markets such as Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore,” he said. “Given that it is a geographically focused market today, content tends to be generated locally or delivered to the markets via fiber. While this is sufficient as an initial solution such a model becomes uneconomic when regional distribution is required. While we believe this will become a requirement in the next 12 to 18 months, there is no commercial platform to support it today. Measat, working with a small number of strategic partners, is looking to meet this need and support the development of this important market segment.”

However, while Brown-Kenyon is confident that the platform will pay back Measat’s investment, making HD a success in Asia could prove far from easy. “While I am not intimately involved in the content development business, discussions with broadcasters suggest the Asia-Pacific region is a very challenging one for HDTV,” he said. “This is due to a number of reasons including the fact that the media markets in the region are generally less developed than those in North America or Europe. There is less capacity in the pay-TV systems to transmit the content and there is limited compelling local HD content to cater to the myriad of cultures, languages and culture preferences that you experience across the region.”

Broadcasters in Asia are “generally very cautious” towards HD services due to the costs involved and the difficulty in getting a return on that investment. However, being part of a platform like this could bring those costs down, said Wee Way Kiat, managing director of Ascent Media Network Services Asia. “If broadcasters include in their HD strategies a partnership of sorts with a service provider like Ascent Media and a satellite operator then there is a good chance that the cost of rolling out the HD service could be reduced through a common platform,” he said. “Generally, there is not a lot of international HD content in Asia at the moment. The market is still pretty nascent. In countries such as Singapore where the number of homes with HD sets are growing rapidly, there is clearly a shortage of HD content.”

But Brown-Kenyon believes these roadblocks are temporary. “Broadcasters can (and are) already developing strategies to address them and create a strong and vibrant HD customer segment,” he said. “This includes working with government agencies to showcase HDTV; collaborating with local media companies for content creation and production; and initiating forums bringing together production houses, customer equipment manufacturers and distributors to explore joint opportunities.”

For Measat, the launch of this HD platform is a vital component of its growth strategy going forward. Competing in the Asia-Pacific region can be tough, however Brown-Kenyon is cautiously optimistic. “There seems to be a general upturn in demand for satellite capacity across the region,” he said. “This is being driven through increased demand from GSM, VSAT and broadcasting applications. On the broadcast side, demand is being driven by broadcasters bringing new channels into the region; broadcasters regionalizing current channels and broadcasters looking to develop new HD content. Today, HD is a small element of the overall picture but we expect this to grow over time.”

The upturn in market demand is taking place at the same time as the supply of quality satellite capacity is looking more constrained, said Brown-Kenyon. Measat sees “significant growth” opportunities for the company across the region in direct-to-home and broadcast markets as well as VSAT and GSM customer segments. “I would like to see Measat as one of the drivers of the satellite industry in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “The launch of Measat-3 and Measat-1R, our support of the growing [direct-to-home] industry across the region and the HD platform are three specific initiatives that I think are cementing Measat’s position at the center of the region’s satellite industry. There will be more to come.”

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