SES Americom Turns Triple Play

Can HD be triple the fun? SES Americom hopes so as it launched an innovative “triple-feed” antenna program this week that will let cable operators receive HD programming from three different satellites. Steve Bunke, SES Americom vice president, media and entertainment sales, discussed the HD market in this Q&A.

Q: What exactly is a triple-feed antenna?

A: It’s one antenna that allows the cable operator to look at three satellites, in this instance AMC-4, AMC-1 and AMC-18. Each of them are two degrees apart so the triple-feed antenna allows the cable operator to save room in the antenna area.

Q: So are there also dual-feed antennas?

A: Yes. Comcast, for example, has a large number of antennas looking at AMC-1 and AMC-4 so we’ll swap those out at no cost and put in the triple feed.

Q: Comcast, Bresnan Communications, Brighthouse Networks, and Metrocast are among the first group of cable operators to make the move. Are you speaking with other operators?

A: Yes. Those four operators are the first ones we’ve signed contracts with but we’re talking to all of the major cable operators down the line.

Q: The need for triple-feed antennas is related to the launch of AMC-18. What will that satellite mean to SES Americom?

A: AMC-18 will be our third satellite in the HD Prime neighborhood and it’s scheduled to be launched in late November and be operational in the first half of 2007. We’re nearly sold out of transponder space on AMC-10 and AMC-11, the other two satellites in the neighborhood so AMC-18 will address our future needs and provide a growth opportunity.

Q: As someone involved in sales you obviously talk to a lot of customers about HD. How is it impacting your business?

A: HD will continue to eat up available capacity and it’s a matter of time before the HD explosion takes place. There are roughly 30 HD channels out there and we expect to see significant growth. But cable operators also recognize they need to expand their internal capacity for the demand of HD programming.

Q: Do you think that explosion in HD growth will take place in 2007?

A: It’s hard to forecast because it depends on the cable operators expanding so they can handle the additional programming.

--Interview by Ken Kerschbaumer