[Via Satellite 09-28-2015] Sky Deutschland, the major DTH operator in Germany and Austria, is likely to be one of the leaders in providing Ultra-HD channels and services in Europe. The operator had already run some early trials and will likely step up plans over the next two years. However, the amount of satellite bandwidth needed is still a major obstacle for its plans.
Stefan Kunz, vice president of business and distribution services at Sky Deutschland, told Via Satellite about the challenges ahead for the operator. “For example, in the production of a football broadcast, we had an uncompressed signal of 0.83 gigabits per second; with 4k, 8.3 gigabits per second is transported to the playout center. This means that with Ultra-HD, we’re talking about 10 times the data amount compared with full HD that has to be broadcast,” he said.
In July this year, Sky Deutschland announced a new capacity deal with SES, which saw the pay-TV operator secure additional capacity for Ultra-HD broadcasts on Astra at 19.2 degrees east. “The agreement with SES gives us planning certainty in terms of capacity and satellite broadcasting, which will enable us to continue gradually develop Ultra-HD and make it a reality for the market,” added Kunz.
The starting point for Sky Deutschland’s Ultra-HD efforts was back in December 2012 when it had its first Ultra-HD production, which was the Bundesliga game between FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. This test was followed by several others, such as the Bundesliga match between Bayern and Bremen on April 26, 2014, which it claims was the world’s first live Ultra-HD broadcast with 50 frames per second in HEVC via satellite. This year it also showed the 2015 UEFA Champions League final in 13 Sky Sportsbars. “In all these tests, our goal was always to make gradual progress toward regular operation. We will launch a proposition when we believe the time is right and there is a clear benefit for our customers,” Kunz said.
However, while the operator is undoubtedly making progress, doing any broadcasts in Ultra-HD is a huge effort. “With many Ultra-HD live tests, we had almost twice the technical requirements with two broadcast wagons, a second director, a second graphics technician as well as twice as many camera personnel and equipment for parallel HD and Ultra-HD broadcasting. With the live production of the Die Fantastischen Vier concert in December 2014, we took a big step by carrying out both Ultra-HD and HD production, all in one for the first time, which of course reduces the costs,” Kunz admitted.
Sky Deutschland has around 4.3 million direct subscribers. Its HD offering has around 96 channels and more than 2.5 million customers. It has been one of the success stories in satellite pay-TV in Europe over the last few years, and it is little surprise that it is aiming to be one of the innovators in bringing Ultra-HD broadcasts to households.
“In the next 12 months we will carry out more Ultra-HD tests to continue improving the picture quality and create an even greater contrast to HD. We will continue to push ahead with Ultra-HD and we are committed to make sure our customers are at the forefront of the next TV revolution. Our focus is on live events, such as sport broadcasts and concerts, because these offer the greatest added value for viewers. After HD, Ultra-HD is the next major leap and has the potential to revolutionize the viewing experience,” Kunz said.