While HD is the future, the spread of the service has varied around the globe. Has HD entertainment lived up to industry expectations or been somewhat of a disappointment to date?
HDTV continues to be seen as a major growth driver for satellite operators around the globe. The number of HDTV channels grew by nearly 170 percent between the end of 2006 and May, according to the Satellite Industry Association’s “2009 State of the Satellite Industry Report.” There were 1,492 HD channels broadcasts around the globe at the end of May, compared to 556 HD channels at the end of 2006. About 60 percent of those channels serve the North American market, according to the study, with the remaining channels primarily broadcasts to the European and Asia-Pacific markets. IMS Research says its it expects total worldwide HDTV households to reach 255 million by the end of 2013, with DTH to be the market leader, serving 38.1 percent of these households. Cable is expected to be second with 26.5 percent of households and IPTV third with 12.3 percent. French research company Idate expects really strong growth over the next four years, and by the end of 2013, it expects there will be nearly 250 HD channels being broadcast, including pan-European channels being distributed in the six largest markets in Europe, according to “Which Network to Deliver HDTV in Europe.”
For broadcasters, the move to provide HD channels is now in earnest and for some is the focal point of their growth strategy. Bhavneet Singh, managing director and executive vice president, emerging markets, MTV Networks International (MTVNI), says HD is a “key priority” for the broadcaster. “HD is very important to us, as it is to many broadcasters, and we feel that MTVNHD really strengthens our global portfolio of assets. Entering the high-def universe is a natural next step in our growth as a premier global media company. MTVNHD further deepens our audience connection as we continue to refine and expand the way we develop, package and deliver quality content.”
MTVNHD is on 40 platforms around the globe, including many cable, IPTV and DTH platforms. “One of our key priorities is to build scale and depth with MTVNHD, and one of the ways in which we can do this is by continuing to build this in countries where the service exists and launching into new markets. By the end of this year we’re aiming to launch MTVNHD in another eight new markets, including Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Portugal and Spain. Further down the line, and where it makes business sense, we will look at the existing portfolio of MTVNI’s SD channels to see if there is potential to launch our non-music portfolio of channels in high definition in markets that have a high demand for HD and good take up of the technology,” he says.
David Haslingden, CEO, of National Geographic Channels International, National Geographic Channel (NGC-US), Fox International Channels (FIC) told Via Satellite that he expects many more platforms to “find religion” with HD. “In 12 months time, I’m confident I will be in a position to tell you that many more multi-channel operators found religion in HD. I think you’ll see platforms embracing HD, either because they recognize the competitive advantage of being first or the competitive necessity of catching up. I expect customers will renew their love for television and increasingly wonder why they ever watched anything that wasn’t in HD. And I dare say you’ll see a lot of happy satellite operators writing business,” he says.
Although this not always been the case. Some broadcasters have shown a reluctance to move to HD. Chang admitted that when DirecTV started out down the HD road, some definitely needed a push in this direction. “It was somewhat of a struggle to get some of the content providers to put up HD content. A lot of them were thinking about it and some had it on their road map, but I don’t think initially they were thinking about it in the same time frame as we were. We said to these guys that at some point, this is going to be the standard. That got a lot of them to step up to HD,” he says.