SES has won a long-term agreement to supply independent German cable operators (the KDL group) with local free-to-air channels. The contract sees KDL take a pair of transponders from Astra’s new orbital position at 31.5 deg East.

The contract was almost certainly a tough one to negotiate given that it was known that Eutelsat was keen to win the bid. However, KDL becomes a pioneering tenant at this new position for Astra, and the business includes a useful order of Astra’s Platform Services division (APS), Technical services will be handled by APS via its play-out centre in Unterföhring, near Munich.

SES says that the independent cable operators provide TV signals from their own head ends to several million German households. “The cooperation with SES Astra enables KDL to offer them an optimized access to digital TV channels called TOPP (Transponder optimized program packages). The service allows a simple and efficient feed of 22 digital free-to-air TV channels into the networks. TOPP also includes the offer by KDL to distribute digital TV receivers to the connected cable households. TOPP is scheduled for launch on 8th of October at the FRK cable congress in Leipzig, Germany.”

The special feature of the package is that although the signals to head-ends will be encrypted, they will be centrally decrypted, so that cable households can receive the free-to-air offer with inexpensive zapping boxes. In contrast, the competing free-to-air basic package with commercial broadcasters which Eutelsat’s direct-to-cable platform KabelKiosk launched in conjunction with cable operator Tele Columbus in May utilises basic encryption for cable carriage. This not only enables business models which require directly addressing viewers, but also ensures that only households which have paid cable fees can receive the package. Many commercial broadcasters also insist on basic encryption for copyright protection.

In collaboration with SES Astra, KDL plans to inform interested cable operators about the offer in a nationwide series of seminars commencing on 22 July.

Alexander Oudendijk, CCO at SES Astra, said: “SES Astra has established itself as the prime supplier of signals to cable head-ends in Germany. With this cooperation, we have found a strong partner to drive the necessary digitalisation of the cable networks. We are also very pleased to have closed the first capacity contract for our new orbital position at 31.5 deg East. This new position will allow us to significantly enlarge and diversify our offer to customers across Europe.”