Arqiva Lays Down Marker in HD Arena
[Satellite News – 4-25-08] Arqiva is expanding into the international high-definition (HD) market with launches of a new international platform for occasional use broadcasting as well as a new MPEG-4 HD platform for Asia.
Simon Thrush, senior vice president for Arqiva in the United States, said the company may also launch other products and services in the next 12 months, including taking some products and services that have proven successful in the United Kingdom and transferring them to the United States.
“Once you have used your current assets, where do you go next?,” says Thrush. “HD was the obvious choice for us. Having played around with the business for 12 months, I am confident we can deliver a return back into the business.”
The launch of the occasional video platform is important as the company tries to make more of an impact in the U.S. market. “It is a year on from when we purchased the BT SBS business,” Thrush said. “We have taken a look at what we need to do to stabilize it and improve it and where we want to invest our capital over here. Having worked on the occasional use product over here for the last 12 months, it is profitable now. It is going in the right direction. We have an understanding of where we want to take and expand these services. What is absolutely clear to us is that we needed to be in that HD sphere, and that is why we have decided to invest and launch that product. I think it will be a very well used and received product.”
The capital requirements for both platforms “are considerable,” says Thrush. “For the occasional video services, we are investing in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. Our spending is considerable, but on the back of good business in both the [United Kingdom] and the [United States], occasional video is growing, and we see it doing well over the next 24 to 36 months really.”
Establishing the Arqiva brand in the United States will be a major challenge for Thrush. “Arqiva ‘s reputation is not as well known as in the United Kingdom and Europe,” he said. “We know there are some big players in the United States. We know where our niche market is and we want to play in that.”
In Asia, Arqiva has partnered with Sat-GE to deliver the new MPEG-4 platform, which will enable broadcasters to distribute and contribute HD and standard-definition channels to Asian-Pacific broadcasters and cable headends. From Arqiva’s digital media center and teleport facilities in Los Angeles, the platform will be uplinked onto GE 23 at 172Ëš East, which is positioned to provide a broad satellite footprint for coverage from the United States into Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.
“We would hope to have at least a couple of channels on the platform at launch,” Thrush said. “I am fairly confident of that. In 12 months, we would like to be sitting on three to four channels. I definitely think there is a market play out there for that, MPEG4 DVB-S2 (digital video broadcasting-satellite-second generation) platform transmitting out of the” United States.
Andrew Jordan, CEO of Sat-GE, believes the platform brings something new to the HD market. “One of the great advantages that we have is available capacity, both now and for growth of HD,” he said. “There are not many satellites that provide the levels of connectivity we have, and there is certainly not a lot of excess capacity on the route that links the West Coast of the United States with all points of East Asia. We have the right design of spacecraft in the right position in the sky at the right time in the evolution of the HD cycle, which is going to be content from the [United States] to Asia, at least initially. That is our competitive advantage and it is the reason we decided to go ahead with this platform.”
Jordan said he thinks the platform could be marketed throughout Asia-Pacific region. “Markets in the stage of development include Australia, where there are a minimum number of approximately 20 hours broadcast each week in HD, and Japan and Korea, the most developed HD markets in this region,” he said. “You then have other markets like Singapore and Hong Kong, where HD channels are being introduced terrestrially and via cable, and direct-to-home platforms are emerging in other Asian countries which have either introduced HD offerings or are planning to do so.”