Cover Story capacity in MENA has enabled us to truly leverage our very strong position in the region with our 7 and 8 West orbital positions . This position is very strong , since we estimate that 90 per cent of the Arabic-speaking population in the world watch free-to-air television on this orbital slot , which gives us a very unique situation to deploy interesting or favourable marketing strategies in the region , notably to exercise a relatively good pricing power . And that ’ s what we are doing well and that ’ s the reason why our revenues in the regions are growing so fast ,” Belmer added .
Belmer expanded , saying : “ Of course , we do compare two options , renew with Nilesat in conditions that would be good enough to convince us not to take back and distribute capacity by ourselves . And that ’ s where we are at the moment . The situation is undecided yet , but what I can tell you is that anyway we think that the outturn will be relatively good for our company .” STB : There ’ s one important addition to Eutelsat ’ s portfolio of viewer-targeted services . It is the region ’ s very first – and very low-cost – set-top box which displays comprehensive extra information on free-to-air channels . While Sat . TV was initially designed for its 8 degrees West the technology has since been added to Eutelsat ’ s HotBird transmissions .
Indeed , the Electronic Programme Guide ( EPG ) has been around in one form or another on pay-TV and certain Freesat-type platforms for as long as digital TV has been a reality . But how does a satellite operator handle around 1,000 free-to-air channels from hundreds of broadcasters and provide a common EPG that can work extremely successfully across its satellites ?
The answer is Sat . tv ( www . sat . tv ) which Eutelsat has developed for use initially on its Eutelsat 7 / 8 degrees West orbital position ( which includes Nilesat ). One of the key problems is that the 1000 channels are split into various languages ( with Arabic being the most common ) but the EPG ’ s designers have skilfully managed to incorporate English-type lists that read from the left-side of the screen , while Arabic script is correctly presented from the right . RANDOM : Given that there are hundreds of channels which are wholly random in the satellite frequency positions , the EPG now correctly identifies them with the channel logo , lists the main channels in the country of each viewer at the top ( through a predefined channel numbering ) and categorises them into genre as well as linguistically . It also provides not just the usual ‘ now / next ’ but a full listing up to seven days ahead .
“ The switch of satellites provides an increase in platform security and control .”
Nicolas Moulin-Fournier ( formerly Eutelsat ’ s SVP , new video services ) explained the dilemma : “ As well as about 1,000 channels
we are serving close to 60 million satellite TV households across North Africa , the Gulf region , and beyond . Even though digital broadcasting has been about for well over 20 years , the EPGs and channel listings have barely changed in that period . There has been a lack of coordination between the broadcasters delivering signals and the set-top-box manufacturers . And with a STB costing barely $ 20 in retail , there just isn ’ t a lot of money to invest in improvements .”
Eutelsat has leveraged its Cirrus team and platform to implement this brand-new user experience for both broadcasters and end users . Eutelsat has focused on helping viewers to navigate the channels easily and find their content of choice based on their country and favourite channel genre . BENEFIT : Eutelsat says the benefit to the consumer is huge , and that there are still around 12m STB ’ s bought every year in the region . “ The consumer gains a modern user experience . The broadcaster gains additional visibility to its targeted audience . And we think Eutelsat will also gain in that we work with our broadcasting clients to improve accessibility for their channels . These elements simply didn ’ t exist before other than for a few smart broadcasters . Now everyone looks good ,” says Moulin-Fournier .
Nilesat and Eutelsat between them carry around 1100 channels . However , Nilesat ( officially , the Egyptian Satellite Co .) continues to suffer from squeezed financial margins leading to falling revenues and lower net profit . In its latest set of accounts , released to the Cairo stock exchange on Feb 11th , the operator ’ s net profit for 2020 tumbled 19.8 % ( y-o-y ) to $ 34.15m , compared to $ 42.53m in 2019 . By August 2021 its half-year performance had again fallen ( by 7 %) with a half-year net profit of $ 18.19m .
Nilesat has ordered a new 4-tonne satellite ( Nilesat 301 ) from Thales Alenia for a likely launch early in 2022 . The contract was signed by Nilesat CEO Ahmed Anis and SVP at Thales Alenia Space Martin Van Schaik . The new satellite will replace ‘ NileSat 201 ’, which ends its design life in 2028 , according to Anis . Nilesat 301 has a design life – likely to be exceeded – of 15 years . NileSat301 will also cover countries in the south of Africa and along the Nile basin .
Nilesat 301 ’ s new Ka-band capacity will also provide broadband Internet services to cover Egypt and other more remote areas , Anis said , which will come as a boost to infrastructure projects and new urban communities . Elon Musk ’ s SpaceX will launch Nilesat 301 . SHIFT . The shift away from Nilesat by broadcasters such as beIN Media is key to the future broadcasting scene from 7-8 degrees West . While viewers will not need to do any physical relocation of their dishes ( other than a re-tune to new frequencies ) the news that beIN shifted from Nilesat to Eutelsat was an extremely important move . beIN SPORTS channels HD1 , HD2 , HD3 , HD4 , HD2 MAX and HD3 MAX were moved to MHz 11013 . beIN SPORTS channels HD , HD5 , HD6 , HD7 , HD8 and HD9 were moved to MHz 11054 .
“ The switch of satellites provides an increase in platform security and control , and improved resilience overall . These efforts were made to ensure beIN Media can continue to provide its viewers and fans with its unrivalled library of entertainment , live sport action and major international events in the highest standards available across all its platforms ,” said beIN at the time .
While the relationship between Nilesat and Eutelsat might be mostly invisible to viewers , the emergence of Es ’ hailSat broadcasting from Qatar cannot be ignored . There ’ s also one slightly important upcoming factor : The FIFA World Cup in 2022 , which is wholly based in Qatar with transmissions due to start on November 21 , 2022 to December 18 2022 , and likely to include Ultra-HD transmissions