Euromedia February March | Page 18

Cover Story

is tough , and our rivals do all they can to tempt channels away and sometimes succeed with heavily discounted prices . This is natural and fair game , but some broadcasters play that game very well and having enjoyed our incentives will happily go somewhere else where another incentive is on offer . Some – not too many – just hop from one satellite to another . We ’ re wise to them .” Boustany says that there is a growing shift towards HDTV by his clients . “ The major broadcasters are migrating to HD and we are carrying 25 channels in HD , this 10 per cent or so and steadily growing in number .”
According to Boustany , his shareholders are well aware that the satellite is filling up . “ We are looking at many alternatives , and at viable ways to grow by securing extra capacity without waiting three or four years for a new satellite . We are totally committed to focusing on our neighbourhoods , and I am not advocating establishing another orbital slot . Never say never , of course , but we can tap into YahSat and SES by way of infrastructure , frequencies and extra transponder space as well as financial support . But we do have concrete plans and it is now a question of our shareholders deciding when to press the button , and why are we pressing the button ,” he admits .
“ Right now , we have enough capacity , and we are very mindful that expansion costs money and that means a capital investment . We can manage for the next year or so , and we know that decisions must be taken . One point worth making is that both my shareholders own some key assets , and that when needed we can call on them . It is a great position to be in . We have expansion rights in Ku-band , but our preference is to see ownership under YahLive ’ s model . So , however we expand , it would be our desire to see those assets or infrastructure under our control ,” he revealed .
He adds that transponder bandwidth prices are staying firm . “ We are happy with where we are . We know that there will
“ There is not enough content in native UHD for a linear channel .” - Ali Ahmed Al Kuwari , Es ’ HailSat
be growing pains and investments to win support from broadcasters . Price incentives are a well-known process , and is natural for
Eutelsat + Nilesat : A powerful combination
Eutelsat shares the Nilesat orbital position at 7 / 8 degrees West , and is carrying hundreds of channels to an audience of some 52.3m homes spread over 14 Arab-language countries . Recent data from Eutelsat talks of HD clearly gaining traction , with the number of HD-equipped homes crossing a threshold of 20m , up from 14.4m and now accounting for 34 % of TV homes in the region .
This percentage is even higher within the 7 / 8 West audience ( 46 %). Looking ahead , the seeds are being sown for the Ultra HD market , with 50 % of people interviewed for our survey aware of Ultra HD . In February 2017 Eutelsat said it was carrying about 150 HDTV channels ( up 40 % in a year ) into the region , and that HD now “ outnumbered ” standarddefinition .
us . But our clients , many of whom are young entrepreneurs operating in the OTT space , are adding channels and it is key that they reach viewers via satellite . Often , there is either zero connectivity , or else poor connectivity . And in some cases , it isn ’ t going to get better ! Satellite is the solution and we ’ re providing this . Our strategy has always been focused , and not simply to give capacity away . That ’ s easy but we need profitability . We have succeeded with the Farsi market and are meeting our financial objectives for shareholders , and we ’ ll continue ,” he confirmed . EXPANSION . Undoubtedly Arabsat has invested heavily in new capacity , and continues to do so . CEO Khalid Balkheyour says there ’ s no sign of this investment slowing . A $ 700m + investment back in 2013 to acquire the HellasSat satellites – and their orbital positions – is now paying tangible dividends , he says . Arabsat ’ s latest satellite , Badr-7 is doing well . “ It has back-up payloads and Kaband and it also serves central Asia and West Africa . We are filling her well . There is a lot of demand for its Ka-band spot beams , and there are new contracts pending from the government sector .”
“ Arabsat 6A is on schedule , and I expect launch in Q1 / 2018 , with SpaceX ,” he adds . “ The launch we shifted was HellasSat-3 which we switched , with our partners ( Inmarsat ), to Arianespace . Arabsat 6A ’ s mission is a mainly BSS craft , with a DTH mission for central Asia and MENA , it will have plenty of Ka-band capacity most of which is pre-sold to the government sector . We are really anxious to get the satellite onto its orbit , and to start serving central Asia which is a new market for us and takes us further East .”
Moreover , Arabsat has other expansion in mind . “ We have Request for Proposals ( RFP ) out now . There originally was talk of three satellites when we invited tenders for our recent expansion . One ended up with our joint-venture satellite with Inmarsat and which Thales is building . The other pair were procured with Lockheed-Martin , almost three years ago . The new RFP is for Arabsat 6D and is under evaluation now , and this will be a new mission and be placed at 44.5 degrees East , targeting data and it will be a highthroughput satellite for us and our partner