Broadband TV News | UK | Archive December 9, 2005
December 9, 2005
Editor: Julian Clover
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Newsline

Tensions emerge in French news channel
TV5 chairman Jean-Jacques Aillagon has admitted that the new Francophone news channel CII may have difficulties in finding a place for itself in a crowded market. “There is an increasing number of news channels. In each territory, indigenous stations and international stations, Anglo-Saxon and Arabic ones in particular, jostle for space. In this context, an additional French news channel will have difficulty finding a place for itself," he told Le Figaro. The former culture minister argued that with no “spontaneous demand for a ‘French-style CNN’” the project might have been better placed on the Internet where it would have better accessibility and be more economic.

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Sky plans second HD sports channel
The launch of its high definition television service is still at least three months away, but already Sky is drawing up plans for a second HD sports channel. Sky Sports HD 2 received its licence from Ofcom this week and follows recent comments by Sky’s Director, New Product Development and Sales Brian Sullivan that a second channel would be needed when the start of the football season clashed with Sky’s live coverage of Test Match Cricket. Also receiving approval from Ofcom this week was The History Channel, which has plans for its own HD service, in addition to a new Military History Channel. Legacy broadcaster Channel 5, which is yet to launch its second channel, receives a licence for Five.3. Turner Entertainment Networks will please movie enthusiasts with TCM2 and cartoon fans with Cartoon Network Too [sic].

Premiere launches MPEG-4 HD services
After several weeks delay, Premiere has given certification to the first set-top box to be used for its new high definition television service. The Pace DS810 uses MPEG-4/H.264 HD hardware decoding and includes the DVB-S2 compression system that can achieve bandwidth savings of up to 30%. Connectivity to HD Ready displays is through HDMI and HDCP. A field test took place last Saturday (December 3) during the Bundesliga match between VfB Stuttgart and FC Bayern München.

TF1 eyes ProSiebenSat.1
French commercial broadcaster TF1 has renewed its interest in the German ProSiebenSat.1 network. TF1 is waiting on a decision from the German competition agency as to whether it will block a takeover by the publishing group Axel Springer. Should the authorities rule against Springer then TF1 will make a bid for the company that it previously tried to acquire in 2002 when the group was formed out of the ruins of the Kirch Group. A consortium led by US media investor Haim Saban then acquired the company. The agency now has until December 27 to declare its hand with Springer, which also owns the tabloid Bild, suggesting that it will take legal action should the ruling go against it.

Kabel Deutschland changes hands
Providence Equity Partners has acquired the largest of the German cable TV operators from its fellow equity companies Apax and Goldman Sachs in a deal that values the company at €3.2 billion including debt. The two partners each held 32% of the company. Providence already has significant stakes in the Spanish cable operator Ono, the Dutch Casema and Sweden’s Com Hem. It now plans a €500 million investment in the German system as part of an upgrade of KDG’s triple play offer. Under the plan 7.5 million households will receive a combined offer of television, telephony and broadband Internet by spring 2007.

EQT Partners sells Com Hem
The last Swedish-owned cable operator has fallen into foreign hands. EQT Partners, the private equity company owned in part by the Swedish Investor group has sold Com Hem to a consortium of The Carlyle Group and Providence Equity Partners. Com Hem is the successor to Svensk Kabel-TV the one time cable operator of the Swedish PTT before its privatisation as Telia. It has 1.6 million subscribers and a successful triple play operation. The ‘free for all’ of Swedish cable television means that Com Hem has been able to extend its footprint to 1.43 million households. The group is also part of the consortium that bought out the Danish telecoms group TDC in a $12 billion transaction.

Liberty/NTL deal cleared
Liberty Global has been given the all clear for the purchase of NTL Ireland by the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment Michael Martin. It follows the approval of Ireland’s competition authority for the takeover that will create a national cable operator in the country. Shane O’Neill will be the executive chairman of the new business that will combine NTL Ireland with Liberty’s Chorus. The company is planning to invest up to €300 million on the development of digital and broadband services.

MTG ups BET24 stake
Modern Times Group (MTG) has signed an option to increase its shareholding in Nordic Betting Limited, the company behind the BET24 online betting operation, broadcast as part of the Viasat digital satellite platform. It is expected that MTG will exercise its option early in 2006, taking its total holding in the company to 90%. The company more than tripled its gross profits in the first nine months of 2005 and MTG is looking to use the synergies between its sports channels and the betting facility in the Nordic market in much the same way that Sky Bet has done in the UK.

Telecom Italia to launch WiBro trial
Telecom Italia is to launch trials of mobile broadband services in February, during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, Telecom Italia chief executive Riccardo Ruggiero said that they will be based on WiBro, a Wi-Max-based technology developed by Samsung, and that they would start selling the services some time in 2007. He pointed out that the implementation would be a European first. WiBro can offer wireless data speeds of 20-30 Mbit/s and work is being done to make the standard compatible with WiMax. Users equipped with the latest generation mobile phones will be able to transfer data and images, download videos, music, movies and TV programs. WiBro will also enable multiconferencing: making simultaneous videocalls to various people while at the same time performing multimedia tasks (audio, video, TV and Internet). It will also be possible to download entire photo albums and complete musical CDs in a very short time

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ECCA Congress '06

Content

FilmFlex makes its first million
FilmFlex has achieved the one-millionth buy from its movie catalogue ahead of schedule. The company was established ahead of the launch of video on demand services from UK cable in January 2005 and is backed by Sony Pictures Television International, Walt Disney Television International and the On Demand Group. It has benefited from the rollout of VOD services moving ahead of schedule. The current roster of 300 movies is to grow to 400 by the end of the month and to 500 by early 2006.

FilmFour could go free
Channel 4 is studying the possibility of taking its premium service FilmFour free-to-air and placing the channel on Freeview. The channel has to balance the £7 monthly fee currently paid by its 400,000 subscribers against the potential for advertising revenues. Movies on the channel, which screens a mix of British, US and European films, are presently screened uninterrupted. However, this could end if the channel moves to an advertising model. Channel 4 has already found success in moving its entertainment channel E4 to a free service.

CNN expands online offer
CNN has launched a premium video news service to broadband subscribers. CNN Pipeline offers subscribers access to CNN, video, multiple live streams and archives. In June CNN.com launched a commercially funded free video service. CNN Pipeline is priced at $24.95 per year. The service is compatible with both Mac and Windows PCs and includes a ‘browse video” tool and a dedicated news update for online subscribers.

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The 2nd Annual Mobile TV and Video Forum

Mobile

Swedish launch mobile TV trial
Teracom is planning to commence a mobile TV in Central Stockholm starting in the New Year. The 16-channel DVB-H broadcast trial is being run in co-operation with the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia. It follows Teracom’s recent test from the Kaknästornet transmission site near Stockholm. A number of mobile operators in Sweden have already introduced mobile TV over 3G services in Sweden and Teracom is hoping that this will sit alongside the broadcast service.

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The 3rd European HDTV Summit

Julian Clover

Clover's Week

NTL looks to Virgin bride
NTL wants to buy Virgin Mobile for Quad Play and marketing muscle, writes Julian Clover

It’s a marriage made in the marketing department. For those of us wondering what if anything would happen to the NTL brand after its merger with Telewest here is the answer. Should the offer to purchase Virgin Mobile be accepted – the initial 323p per share has already been rejected ¬– then the new brand would be Virgin Television.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand – established with the release of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells – carries with it a tremendous amount of goodwill from the public at large. While other companies would insist upon a change of name following a short handover period, Virgin positively revels in the opportunity to licence its brand as part of the package. The clever piece of marketing is that few of the listeners to Virgin Radio would be aware that the station is actually a part of Scottish Media Holdings or Virgin Atlantic passengers that Singapore Airlines is a 49% shareholder.

Broadcasting is not a Virgin strong point, a pioneer in multichannel television, Sir Richard established Super Channel with all but one of the ITV companies of the time. Super Channel had an unhappy evolution and its considerable carriage contracts evolved into what is now National Geographic and CNBC. The Super Station was designed to provide star names to local commercial radio, but failed to establish itself, even though networking is now sadly all the rage.

The NTL brand is somewhat non-descript and was itself acquired as Barclay Knapp’s International Cabletel looked to build up its portfolio in the mid-’90s. Virgin will bring just as much with its name as the ability to cross-sell mobile telephony will add to a quad play offer that will incorporate the existing triple-play of television, telephony and broadband Internet. BT, which has its own plans for a television service, already has its Fusion product that combines mobile telephony with a fixed line service on a single number.

Virgin Mobile isn’t really a mobile operator at all; the company relies on T-Mobile to provide its mobile infrastructure. NTL says the mobile company is supportive of the proposals. Sir Richard has said that he is happy with the NTL offer, which would value the company at £891 million, but Sir Richard only speaks for 72% of the company. The other shareholders are believed to be holding out for a higher offer.

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