ZDF Official: Time Right for HD to Germany
ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) is Germany’s national public TV broadcaster and a huge presence on the digital TV landscape in Germany. With satellite pay-TV operator Sky Deutschland struggling and cable operators moving from analog to digital, the German market is in flux. ZDF Executive Vice President, Production, Andreas Bereczky, discusses ZDF’s HD plans.
VIA SATELLITE: Is the time right for a big broadcaster to move to HD in Germany?
Bereczky: We believe it is the right time to start. The investment in HD equipment makes more sense today than it did few years ago. The price of broadcasting technology is coming down. On the other hand, ZDF has to reinvest anyway in central broadcasting production facilities like playout, OBI vans and so on. It makes sense to invest in future technology like HD. Also, HD will boost the analog digital switchover and will help us to switch off the analog satellite signal in the near future. This would save us a significant part of our satellite distribution costs.
VIA SATELLITE: How important is HD in your future?
Bereczky: ZDF published its HD road map at the beginning of 2008. We start broadcasting in HD with so-called showcases. The first showcase was the World Athletics Championship in Berlin [in August]. After the Championship, the largest consumer electronic fair in Europe, IFA, [which was held in] Berlin. We broadcast in HD during this fair as well. The last showcase will be around Christmas to boost the popularity of HD. The start of a regular HD broadcasting will be when we start broadcasting the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. During the showcases and after starting with regular HD broadcasting, we will broadcast the ZDF main channel in simulcast — analog, digital and in HD. All content which is already available in HD will be broadcast in HD. Content which is not yet available in HD will be converted to HD. Our customers will receive a full ZDF channel in HD 24 hours a day.
VIA SATELLITE: Are there enough households with HD-ready equipment to justify your strategy?
Bereczky: We believe that HD is the next level of technology in broadcasting. Therefore, any new investment in broadcasting equipment has to be HD ready. The number of households with HD receivers is increasing — especially on the satellite side. We will have approximately 1 million HD households able to receive an HD signal by the end of this year, and there is also other distribution methods for HD signals. The population of HD via IPTV also needs to be taken into account. We expect up to 1 million subscribers of the T-Home Entertain platform by the end of this year. This platform is already HD ready. So we believe that during 2010, after we start with HD, we can reach up to 4 million households in Germany. This is a market share of 10 percent.
VIA SATELLITE: Is there demand for HD in Germany?
Bereczky: I believe customers will like to see high-quality content like movies, documentaries and especially sport in HD, but we don’t know yet whether or not they are ready to pay an additional fee for this. Privately financed broadcasters have tried to start with a paid HD service in Germany. We will not see any result or success until the end of next year.
VIA SATELLITE: Will you look to acquire more satellite capacity to bring more HD channels to pay-TV bouquets?
Bereczky: We are looking for the best time to switch off the analog signal on the satellite. If we find the solution, we will be able to finance more HD channels. However, we do not expect to increase the capacity on the satellite before 2013.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you expect the HD landscape in Germany to develop over the next 12 months?
Bereczky: There will be a significant change. ARD will also start at the same time as ZDF. The RTL group and Pro7/Sat plan to start with HD in late 2009 and early 2010 as a paid model. We should not forget arte, which has broadcast its channel in Germany for one year, and the HD pioneer, Premiere, under new management and label (Sky), announced new channels in HD. So we will see at least six to eight new HD channels in Germany over the next 12 months.