Sky’s Eye Not on More HD

MySky HDi customers will have to be satisfied with only four HD subscription channels and three HD free-to-air channels for the rest of 2010.

Chief executive John Fellet told the pay-TV operator won’t be investing in new HD services this year.

That means subscribers can’t expect new HD channels until at least two-and-a-half years after Sky launched MySky HDi.

Instead, Fellet plans to debut more SD channels because they provide “more bang for the buck” than an HD channel that consumes four to five times the bandwidth of an SD service.

It costs Sky $5 million a year to lease a satellite transponder with enough capacity for four HD channels or 20 SD channels.

So in a market this small, Sky sees more potential for growth through adding SD channels. As Fellet recently argued in Onfilm: “Think of Sky as this gigantic boiler, with all sorts of knobs we can twist, and chokes we can pull in and out, and my job is to get the greatest head of steam.

“So the issue I’ve got to decide is: ‘Jeez, do I launch that HD channel and forego five more standard definition channels or am I better off to push HD [to get] more subscribers?’”

He had contemplated turning UKTV or The Box into HD channels, to freshen the appeal of schedules that are dominated by series that already have aired on the free-to-air networks, but wondered if enough of their content was HD-worthy.

He also doubts if the HD sister channels of Discovery, History and National Geographic can match the programming muscle of the SD feeds because they don’t have as much content to choose from for their schedules.

Moreover, Fellet insists any new HD channel must be simulcast in SD – so SD subscribers will be encouraged to upgrade when they see the “Available in HD” logo that Sky flashes up periodically.

He reckons this tactic has helped to drive Sky’s HD uptake higher than Foxtel’s across the Tasman – but it has been a stumbling block in negotiations with some suppliers.

Not surprisingly, Fellet isn’t hellbent on making Prime the country’s fourth free-to-air HD channel, even with the prospect of the Vancouver Olympics.

He points out all of Sky’s Olympics coverage will be SD as well and doubts if HD would hike interest because time zone differences mean key competitions won’t be in primetime.

“There are no plans to have Prime in HD this year,” he says, “but we’ll look at it for 2012.”

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One Response to “Sky’s Eye Not on More HD”

  1. Warning: preg_replace(): Unknown modifier '/' in /home/customer/www/ on line 66
    February 9, 2010 at 8:51 am

    No room for more HD but plenty for more crap SD channels like Travel Channel.. While the rest of the world starts to look at 3D TV but NZ can’t even get it’s act together and have HD properly. Sky and TVNZ both TV Luddites when it come to HiDef.

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