HBO Ole Launches in HD

HBO Latin America has launched an HD version of its HBO Ole channel in Latin America using MPEG-4 compression. The new service, which debuted in April, is an important development because there is very little HD content available in Latin America and because of the decision to use the newer MPEG-4 compression tools to save bandwidth and transportation costs.

“HBO Latin America had been a customer of Motorola for quite some time in distributing their standard-definition content to Latin America from their uplink facility in Sunrise, Fla.,” said Mark Schaffer, director of product management for the IPTV solutions group at Motorola.

HBO opted for MPEG-4 compression for the new service because it didn’t have the 18 Megabytes of satellite capacity need for an MPEG-2 HD channel, Schaffer said.

The new HD feed is processed by Motorola’s SE-5100 High Definition MPEG-4 AVC encoder, which converts the content to MPEG-4 for distribution via satellite to affiliates in Latin America. At downlink sites, the content is processed by Motorola’s multiformat receiver/decoder DSR 6050, which can deliver it in MPEG-4/AVC and MPEG-2 formats.

The new gear will allow HBO Latin America to launch additional HD feeds but no timetable has been set.

Latin American operators have been generally slow to digitize their systems and the dual delivery allows HBO to deliver its feed to operators using recently deployed MPEG-4 capable systems or those still using MPEG-2.

“They are taking advantage of MPEG-4 to deliver new services without having to acquire additional satellite space,” Schaffer said.

Schaffer added that other programmers are expressing interest in launching high-def feeds in Latin America due to rising HDTV set sales in the region.

According to HBO senior vice president of technology and operations Pierre Jaspar, “There has been a marked acceleration in demand for high-definition programming in the Latin American regions, with an increase of over 1.4 million HDTV sets in June and July [of 2007] alone.”