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By | November 2, 2000

      Eutelsat’s Eurobird (planned for 28.5 degrees East) is not due for launch until around February 2001, but is already creating interest amongst independent, that is non- affiliated, broadcasters. For example, Globecast has taken a full Eurobird transponder and has signed up its first customer, UPCtv’s Extreme Sports channel, occupying some 4.5 Mb of bandwidth.

      Nigel Gibson, head of TV channel distribution at Globecast, says the multiplex currently comprises the single channel, “although UPC is a fast growing company” he joked. “We have struck a deal with SES, where Extreme Sports is available to UK viewers from Astra 2A, pending Eurobird’s launch, then the channel will seamlessly switch over. We have an operational service date in early March.”

      Globecast says it is confident that Extreme Sport will not be alone when the transponder is fired up. “It would be nice to see it full before launch, and this agreement is a good sign for the future. But we are talking, and in negotiations, with a number of people over their UK plans.” Gibson says broadcasters are additionally attracted by what he described as the ‘substantial savings’ possible from Eurobird, against Astra.

      Globecast hopes to replicate on Eurobird what it has done on Hot Bird 5, which again involved a complete transponder, which it then sold off on a bit-rate basis to individual channels. Their HB5 customers include CNNI, JSTV, MBC, BET, EuroNews and others. Gibson says Globecast can now offer broadcasters and would-be broadcasters an alternate choice of accessing the UK digital DTH market. “We are also working closely with Sky so that our customers can decide whether they want to be part of Sky’s EPG service. We have put in a dedicated data circuit between us and Sky so that we offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ for whatever our clients need.” Broadcasters will have to deal with Sky over the fine print of any EPG carriage agreement, and especially if they want to be part of the Sky Digital overall bouquet, but at least Globecast can solve the technical aspects, says Gibson. He declined to say whether Globecast secured the transponder lease through Eutelsat’s Luxembourg signatory, or another source.

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