Satellite: the preferred digital video infrastructure

Backed by the acquisition of NOORSAT as well as innovation in fields like EPG and nomadic viewing, Eutelsat is all geared up to expand its market presence in the MENA
Satellite communications, Satellite, Eutelsat, Noorsat, Eutelsat acquires Noorsat, Anti-piracy, Satellite for video, Video, HD, 4k, Broadcast, TV, DTH, Vod

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At CABSAT 2018, Eutelsat announced a rise of FTA HD channels in key 7/8° West video neighbourhood.  “MENA is a very important region for us worldwide because close to one-fourth (23%) of our revenues come from services rendered in this region,” says Michael Azibert, deputy CEO, chief commercial and development officer, Eutelsat. Two thirds of Eutelsat’s 39 satellites include MENA coverage.

Eutelsat has been a longstanding player in the MENA region with four key video neighbourhoods: 7/8° West, HOTBIRD @13° East, 25° East, and 7° East. “7/8° West is the one that gives us leadership in the region. It’s a multi-satellite neighbourhood with 1 Nilesat satellite and 2 Eutelsat satellites. As per statistics in July, it broadcast over 1200 Arabic and international channels – 55% exclusive channels, 1050 free to air and 150 pay-tv channels,” Azibert adds.

In Oct 2017, Eutelsat acquired NOORSAT, one of the leading satellite service providers in the Middle East, from Bahrain’s Orbit Holding Group. Azibert says: “It’s a great combination, a great opportunity to strengthen our position in the region. In addition to obvious technical synergies, what’s more important for us is the go-to-market approach- we believe we are stronger now than before.”

Established in 2004, NOORSAT is the premier distributor of Eutelsat capacity in the Middle East, serving blue-chip customers and providing services for over 300 TV channels almost exclusively from Eutelsat’s market-leading Middle East and North Africa neighbourhoods at 7/8° West and 25.5° East.

The acquisition of NOORSAT fits with Eutelsat’s broader strategy of streamlining distribution within selected core video neighbourhoods where it can create value. It will allow Eutelsat to strengthen the long term commercial development of its market-leading video positions in the Arabic world and increase its direct access to end-customers, facilitating stimulation of High Definition TV take-up and the upselling of incremental video services.

There are few things which are very important for Eutelsat, according to Azibert. These are quality of video/broadcast, diversity of content, compliance and innovation.

In its fight against pirated content, Eutelsat has joined the MENA Broadcast Satellite Anti-piracy Coalition. The Coalition was formed in March 2014; as major stakeholders in the Middle East Satellite TV industry, members of the Coalition share information and align strategies to prevent content piracy. “I wouldn’t say we have entirely eliminated piracy but we have definitely reduced to a large extent and the broadcasters are very happy,” Azibert says.

He further explains that in order to protect content, a particular system has been put in place, which sends of a signal whenever there’s any programming that doesn’t comply with existing rights and policies. Such infringement notifications are immediately acted upon immediately and necessary action is taken.

“Today we have zero notices from the coalition,” says Omar Shoter, regional VP, MENA- Amman, Eutelsat. “With time we have improved the monitoring process and we act quickly. We also discovered that there are people in the market who even sell fake rights, so at times providers think they have rights but the contract is actually not true.”

In the innovation realm as well, Eutelsat has had quite a few interesting stories. For example, there is Sat.tv which basically is a new-generation Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) designed to enhance the free-to-air viewing experience for consumers and increase broadcaster engagement with their audience. Broadcasters can enter programme schedules and information which are displayed in real-time through the app. Preferred content can be selected in one click, and personalised recommendations generated based on viewer tastes. Viewers can also share any content of the app live on their social media profiles.

Another highlight from the operator is its SmartBEAM solution which enables platform operators to broadcast live video channels in IP format via satellite, creating a network dedicated to all IP-native terminals such as tablets and smartphones.  Leveraging all the advantages of satellite broadcast, SmartBEAM brings rich video content and a high-quality user experience to IP-native screens, whether in homes or public venues, such as hotels or shopping malls. The cost-effective SmartBEAM solution combines IP multicast with local Wi-Fi distribution.  Eutelsat has started the service in Russia with a leading TV operator, Tricolor TV.

Eutelsat works with several telco customers in the region. “For us mobile backhauling is important especially in extension of 4G networks,” says Azibert. He adds that the company is further bringing HTS AND VHTS to the market which would serve internet access, mobile backhauling as well as IoT use cases, and be the cornerstone of Eutelsat’s future growth strategy.

Considering the fact that providing FTTH wouldn’t be a very feasible option in several regions, Eutelsat is quite bullish about the opportunities for satellite for several years to come.

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