BTBS Hits Financial Targets

By | April 19, 2004 | Feature

BT Broadcast Services (BTBS) achieved a measure of success by meeting its financial targets for its fiscal year ended March 31, said its Managing Director Mark Smith. The company, however, aims to build on it through such endeavors as the launch a new product called BT Mediarelay.

The product, offered in conjunction with Pathfire, is designed to give broadcasters a transatlantic video-file-transfer service. BTBS’ customer base will be able to connect to more than 1,000 Pathfire-enabled U.S. broadcast television stations. The product enables content owners, advertising agencies and news providers to send and receive content within and between both networks. Company officials said the result would be a fast, cost-effective alternative to distributing broadcasting via videotapes or by linear satellite services.

Smith said this new service is a key development for BTBS. He commented, “It answers probably one of the biggest questions that our customers actually have: How can you get much more flexibility using file transfer rather than a permanently linked broadcast network across the transatlantic void? That is really the differential. The industry has moved now to a point where file transfer is a reality for people, and this gives them that flexibility. It is effectively an on-demand broadcast network, as long as you are prepared to use file transfer.”

“Future of the Industry”

According to Smith, the launch of Mediarelay is one of the most critical product launches for the company in recent times. He commented, “It is the future of the industry. This is, without a doubt, where the industry is going. I think this will be critical for the future of my business. If we were not there, I probably would not be in this business in 10 years’ time. Without this kind of development, my company would be in what is a declining business … So, this actually brings this into the 21st century and actually opens a completely new marketplace for us.”

The company expects further announcements in this area during the next weeks. In a subsequent development phase, it will include a local service, which will enable a news broadcaster to operate a 48-hour archive of recent news reports for on-demand retrieval.

Baseball Deal

In another key deal, BTBS signed a deal with MLB Advanced Media (Major League Baseball) to acquire and encode all MLB games for online distribution. This contract will enable baseball fans to watch games anytime, anywhere. BTBS will use its global broadcast satellite and fiber infrastructure to encode content as fast as 350 Kbps.

MLB already has more than 500,000 paid subscribers to its online content, and it reportedly is leading the way in terms of sports organizations using different methods of distribution. The company also has more than 150,000 subscribers for its live video service. Smith called this arrangement a deal to stream thousands of baseball games during the next four years. What it allows MLB to do is launch services independent of regions. If you are a subscriber with MLB to the fanzone-type package, you can follow your team and have your own games.

Joe Choti, senior vice president and CTO of MLB Advanced Media, commented, “BTBS’ extensive service allows us to distribute more games, highlights and commentary to our online audience than ever before. Because of BTBS’ global infrastructure, we are able to bring in content from around the world as well as regular and post-season play, and [to] Webcast it online live and on demand.”

Smith also is confident BTBS can tie up another couple of deals in this area in the next few months. Other pacts with other major North American sports organizations also are possible. He said, “I think this deal is going to be the first of many. I think when other sports organizations see this type of thing happening, they are going to jump on the bandwagon. Clearly, we will not win all of that business, but we are hopeful that, in the next three months, we are going to announce another two deals in this area in the United States.”

To round out a trio of key announcements in the last month, BTBS also agreed a deal with the UK’s ITV to modernize its broadcast network last month. The six-year contract will create a new multimedia network for ITV, exploiting advances in technology to enhance service quality and delivering significant transmission efficiencies. This deal could offer a framework for other broadcasters looking to modernize their networks in Europe and beyond.

“It is a massive deal for ITV and ourselves. In network terms, it really supports ITV going forward into the future,” Smith said. “They will have a much more flexible network. The network will be actually dynamically reconfigurable so that ITV can have national feeds across the whole network, or regional news feeds and adverts at the appropriate times.”

In terms of other challenges for 2004, the operator expects it could be a big year for high-definition television (HDTV). “Because of the way HD is growing, its demand on capacity networks and how you transfer these vast amounts of data, I think HD is becoming a reality. That is beginning to really drive some of our thinking, and that is really the brightest spot I see right now for the industry in general. Already, we are seeing a lot of interest materializing for sports-type events, which will be viewed in countries such as Japan and the United States.” By 2006, there will be a significant HD marketplace, Smith predicted. –Mark Holmes

Contact: Paul Borge, Band & Brown Communications, e-mail: paul@bbpr.com

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