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PanAmSat’s Crowded HD Neighborhood

Kurt Riegelsman
SVP, North American Sales

PanAmSat’s HD neighborhood continues to become a popular place for high definitionetworks to live. National Geographic HD announced at NTCA that it will be delivered on PanAmSat’s Galaxy HD, making it available to more than 9,000 cable systems throughout the U.S. The network is the 16th to join with PanAmSat . Kurt Riegelman, PanAmSat SVP, North American sales, discussed the market with Ken Kerschbaumer during the NCTA convention in Atlanta.

Q. What are you hearing from your customers in terms of their need for HD transmission services?

A. In the past 18 months we hit a lull because the cable headends had no bandwidth available for HD. But in the past month our top programming partners are asking us how we’re doing on space because they’re making some plans and looking at moving to HD.

Q. Why the renewed interest?

A. Networks are getting ready because the cable operators are telling them they’re going to start reclaiming bandwidth for more HD product. Cable and satellite really needs to get in front of IPTV in terms of HD services because a good offense is the best defense against subscriber erosion. So while I was thinking it was going to be another slow year we’re getting a lot of buzz. I wouldn’t be surprised if you would hear of even more launches in the next six months.

Q. With all of these networks going to HD is there enough bandwidth in the sky?

A. Yes. Some of the programmers will reclaim their analog bandwidth and then go digital and put their HD and niche programming in that space. We also have some more assets going on line that will open up more satellite capacity. So there’s enough space to handle the next wave. Some companies, like Disney, are moving their satellite transmission to digital later this year.

Q. MPEG-4 is another technology always discussed for bandwidth savings. Are you looking at MPEG4 technology?

A. We don’t have a lot of folks talking about MPEG4 because the head ends are fully digital with MPEG2. So they have another five or seven years to write that investment off.

That being said, we have the first end-to-end MPEG4 solution for HD with conditional access attached to it that can be driven from the satellite all the way to the set-top box. And the user can choose if they want the feed to be open or require conditional access with billing and other services. This is the first time that the head-end economics make sense. For $80,000-$100,000 the cable guys can jump in without spending $500,000 for a digital headend.

--Interview by Ken Kerschbaumer