SES World Skies Outlines Satellite-Launch Plans

As the demand for global satellite transmission increases at a rapid rate, SES World Skies is prepared to expand its capabilities.

At a press briefing on the eve of the Content & Communications World summit last week, SES outlined a launch initiative that will put a dozen satellites into orbit over a 2½-year span.

SES-4 is on deck and is scheduled for launch before the end of the year from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is set to replace the NSS-7 spacecraft with coverage for government, VSAT, and video solutions over the Americas, Africa, and Europe.

SES-5 is slated to follow early in 2012 and will enable everything from GSM backhaul to VSAT, maritime, and video-distribution services over Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. SES is expected to launch an additional six satellites by early 2014.

SES, which transmits 5,905 TV and radio channels globally (1,746 in North America) to 245 million homes, works with such major sports programmers as Turner Broadcasting, Dish Network, ABC, CBS, NBC, and, in Europe, Sky TV.

Scott Sprague, senior VP of global sales at SES, noted that one of the biggest challenges with satellite transmission of live sports is ensuring the available capacity to support major events. SES has a fulltime staff that supports broadcasters, using an automated booking tool that indicates what capacity SES satellites have available.

“What we try to do is strategically look at where we can add value in their delivery of their content,” said Sprague. “One of the things that we are seeing more and more of is that the broadcasters are asking the satellite operators not just to provide satellite connectivity but to deliver the content from one point to another.”

Though noting that live sports production accounts for only about 2% of his company’s overall revenue annually, he added that it’s an important part of their relationship with their global broadcasters that they take very seriously.

“The relationship between broadcasters and satellite operators,” said Sprague, “has to be one where the broadcasters feel comfortable and confident that the satellite operators understand their business, understand the importance of delivering that live feed because it doesn’t go over well when the Super Bowl gets blacked out for two minutes. So there’s a great deal of trust in that, but they want us to continue to broaden the services that we provide to them and help them deliver that content.”

Turner Renews Pacts on Transponders
SES and Turner Broadcasting signed capacity-renewal agreements for nearly seven transponders on four satellites to enable distribution of news and entertainment programs throughout North America and Europe. TBS relies on more than 10 transponders on SES satellites for global coverage.

As part of the multiyear, multisatellite deal, TBS is using five transponders of Ku-band capacity aboard SES’s AMC-3 satellite. Four transponders are used for CNN satellite newsgathering (SNG) across the U.S. and Canada, and one is used for distribution of CNN Newsource to more than 800 domestic affiliates.

The SNG coverage will migrate to the new SES-2 satellite once the spacecraft initiates service in the 87° West orbital slot in November. An additional 8 MHz of capacity is being used to provide voice communications between remote SNG news trucks and CNN in Atlanta.

Turner delivers breaking news from North America to European affiliates via CNN Newsource using 9 MHz of Ku-band capacity on SES’s NSS-7 satellite at 338° East. The service is scheduled to transition to the new SES-4 spacecraft once it’s operational next year. Direct-to-home viewers across the UK and Germany receive a variety of programming from Turner Broadcasting System — including CNN International, TNT, Boomerang, and Cartoon Network — over Ku-band capacity on two of SES’s ASTRA satellites, located at 19.2° East and 28.2° East.