[Satellite News 02-28-12] Serbia Broadband (SBB) is one of Eastern Europe’s more progressive pay-TV operators and offers TV services both via cable and satellite in five markets in Eastern Europe. It could also be one of the next operators to introduce a satellite broadband service in Serbia and beyond. “We are exploring the possibilities of launching an Internet service over satellite, but it is still in the testing phase at the moment,” SBB’s CTO Predrag Djurdjevic told Satellite News.
The company’s main market is Serbia, which has a population of close to 7.5 million people. Its DTH brand is called Total TV. SBB operates Total TV in Bosnia Herzgovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia, although the DTH platform in Croatia is not called Total TV. It also operates Total TV International, which enables users around Europe to watch channels from this region.
Djurdjevic outlines how the operator will develop its video proposition during the next 12 months. “We are planning to expand on-demand services on platforms without two-way communication, so push VoD on DTH, as well launching an Over-The-Top (OTT) multiscreen solution. We expect higher demand and an increased offer of HD channels in the region. We also expect to see a gradual change in viewing behavior in our subscribers, as they accept more and more the benefits of non-linear television like VoD and time-shift TV. Therefore, the introduction of one affordable HD set-top box with interactive functionality is essential. Our goal for the next 12 months is to provide a unified user experience across all devices (TVs, PCs, tablets, smartphones) with a slick and intuitive GUI, rich variety of content in linear and non-linear mode, and plenty of interaction between users.”
The company is a long-standing customer of Eutelsat Communications. In its most recent capacity deal signed with the operator in 2009, SBB took two transponders at Eutelsat’s 16 degrees video neighborhood. SBB and Eutelsat at the time also agreed on the long-term extension of contracts for the two transponders already used since 2006 to broadcast Total TV from Eutelsat’s specialist video neighborhood for central European digital TV markets. Given Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat satellite and SBB’s potential desire to launch a satellite broadband service, it seems a deal involving SBB for Ka-Sat capacity is not out of the question.
Making a new multiscreen offer available to its subscribers, particularly those on DTH platforms, will be a major challenge for the operator. “As far as the multiscreen platform is concerned, our focus will be on our digital cable subscribers at first. However, in two out of the five countries where our DTH platform operates, we are actively developing double- or triple-play offers bundling DTH video with ADSL Internet and voice services. Unfortunately, many of our DTH subscribers are not in a position to have high-quality and simple two-way service, but our goal is to make multiscreen platform available to as many subscribers as possible,” Djurdjevic adds.
Like many pay-TV operators, SBB is looking at using a wide range of technologies to offer services to the customer. It is also starting to use wireless technologies more and more in its operations. “In 2011, we launched our SBB Wi-Fi zone with more than 250 access points installed in larger cities in Serbia in the most popular walking zones, cafes and restaurants. The service is free of charge for all SBB Internet customers (Postpaid), while others can pay for the service using SMS. Besides Internet surfing, SBB Wi-Fi zone in combination with a multi-screen platform is providing a new dimension of user experience when watching TV. We are looking at giving our customers greater mobility. We are also working on creating very attractive offers to our customers for home mobility, and we will be launching these services this year,” says Djurdjevic.
SBB is also likely to deploy more HD channels and really ramp up what it is doing. “We expect higher demand and more HD channels available in the region. We see a lot of initiatives from satellite operators, DTH operators and technology providers in trying to bring more HD content on DTH platforms through simulcrypt, better encoding and capacity cost sharing,” adds Djurdjevic.
The operator is shaping up to have a busy year. Besides new home mobility services, and possibly a satellite broadband service, it could also do some 3-D TV. “So far, we have not had much experience with TV stations broadcasting in 3-D. Our plan is to start with test broadcasts by the middle of this year, but we do not consider it a priority in our development roadmap,” says Djurdjevic.