[Via Satellite 08-21-2015] Direct to Home (DTH) broadcasting appears to be outpacing terrestrial broadcasts in Latin America, according to Juan Salleras, EVP and general manager at Encompass Digital Media Latin America. A mainstay of the satellite industry, DTH is growing in popularity as consumers distanced from densely populated areas create greater demand.
“My perception is that the DTH offering was not as developed as the cable-based offering. What’s happening right now is that DTH development is gaining pace and is growing faster than cable,” Salleras told Via Satellite.
High Definition (HD) content is continuing to fuel video demand across Latin America. Salleras said broadcasters are making ever-quicker strides from Standard Definition (SD) to HD, fueling growth throughout the region.
“The transition has been accelerating over the last couple of years,” he said. “The cable companies and DTH platforms are demanding programmers to provide more HD content. It seems that if you don’t have HD content, it’s going to be very hard to find shelf space to offer your product.”
Salleras’ comments echo those of several other players in Latin America. Media Networks, a division of Telefonica, is transitioning its focus almost predominantly to HD from SD, and is preparing for higher quality broadcasts as well. Similarly, Brazilian telco Oi’s pay-TV division Oi TV has touted HD as a cornerstone of its strategy.
Encompass Digital Media entered the Latin American market in a major way in 2012 through the acquisition of TIBA Satellite Services. Encompass now offers the same services it does globally in Latin America, such as channel playout, transmission, compression and satellite space services.
DirecTV Latin America is currently Encompass Digital Media’s main customer for DTH in the region. Salleras said the company provides transmission and facility services for this customer, and that DirecTV has collocated compression and master control equipment on Encompass’ premises. He expects DTH activity will continue to heat up.
“Latin America is a very large region in terms of geographic extension. Fiber and cable deployment has not and will not cover 100 percent of the population because it is not cost effective. DTH platforms are a very cost effective way of providing programming to remote locations that don’t have access to fiber or cable connectivity,” he said.
Salleras quickly added that, while DTH is growing, a hybrid solution that combines satellite and terrestrial broadcasts is likely to drive the most growth. Encompass does not offer cable, but does have its Global Interconnect Fiber Network for clients to manage, transport, archive and restore files to numerous platforms in various formats.
Encompass is a significant customer of SES and Intelsat for capacity. Last year the company signed a 15-year agreement for capacity on Intelsat 34, which launched Aug. 20 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Salleras said the company has around 400 MHz of capacity covering the region.
“In Latin America, you have approximately 2,500 cable headends receiving programming from LATAM and international broadcasters. The satellites we provide services on reach between 2,000 and 2,500 cable headends in Latin America and receive programing from them in different markets,” he said.
Salleras said that analog shut offs in countries across the region will not have an impact on the quality or quantity of services from Encompass. The company is investing in new technology to improve services, having partnered with V-Nova earlier this year on next-gen video compression products and services. Encompass and V-Nova are studying Internet-based video, Over-The-Top (OTT) content distribution, and 4K and 8K Ultra-HD television by satellite and cable. Though Encompass is actively researching these technologies, Salleras said 4K and 8K remain some distance away, and that the primary focus today remains on HD.
“Latin America is still migrating to HD and the migration is happening quickly,” he said. “However, it will be a couple of years before they start looking for new compression technologies that would require additional infrastructure and investments.”
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