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Multi-cast content: OTT does not spell the end for satellite, still the most reliable/affordable delivery platform

By Shaun Lim

In part one of this special report last week, APB+ spoke with Intelsat, MEASAT, and Es’hailSat on some of the key challenges facing the satellite broadcasting industry today. This week, the conversation continues with a look at the key enabling technologies and strategies that are enabling satellite broadcasters to thrive in an OTT world.

For the satellite broadcasting industry, some of the key enabling technologies today are those that enable content creators to get their content to be viewed in the form of channels and streams in the fastest and most cost-competitive manner, according to Hamad Al Mannai, Vice-President, Commercial, Es’hailSat.

He told APB+, “Further to this objective, Es’hailSat has recently launched its Playout & Media Services offering, which combines the long-standing legacy of Es’hailSat’s satellite distribution and contribution platforms, together with the most advanced Playout solutions that enable TV channels to be deployed rapidly from a one-stop-shop solution, thus providing peace of mind to the content creators with maximum audience reach.”

For Intelsat, the focus on supporting quality IP distribution of media content is being manifested in the recently launched IntelsatOne IP platform, which brings the best of satellite and terrestrial connectivity that traditional IP-only providers would be unable to provide, claimed Gaurav Kharod, Regional Vice-President, Asia-Pacific Sales, Intelsat.

“Intelsat already owns and operates a global IntelsatOne Media network that connects all our teleports and points of presence (PoPs) globally, through a redundant fibre backbone network,” he explained.

“This backbone would support the new IP delivery product for distribution and contribution across the globe, with a secure and SLA-driven solution, providing an IP-based private cloud service.”

This offering also augments Intelsat’s Cloud Connect Media solution, which provides programmers with secure access between the IntelsatOne Media Network and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Gaurav added, “Asian content originators can utilise the global IP delivery solution as well as the AWS peering on the network to reach any distribution point in the region/world and bring content into Asia as well as using the cloud seamlessly. This enhances our portfolio to a full suite of media connectivity solutions for them.”

With the proliferation of over-the-top (OTT) technologies and platforms in recent years, MEASAT’s focus has been on finding ways to leverage these technologies on their satellite broadband product CONNECTme. 

“We aim to overlay a video streaming service across our CONNECTme network by 2025,” shared Ganendra Selvaraj, Chief Commercial Officer, MEASAT, who also revealed how the company is monitoring the progress of Free Advertising Supported Television (FAST).

FAST channels, according to Ganendra, are growing in popularity as an alternative to subscription-based pay TV services, allowing channels to be streamed via the Internet onto connected TV platforms with revenues generated from advertisers.

“Currently, satellite may not have a direct role to play in this field, but there have been some initiatives to put FAST channels on satellite, for insertion into pay-TV operators’ bouquets. For MEASAT, this is something we are exploring along with incorporating FAST channel content over our CONNECTme broadband service,” Ganendra said.

As to what the future holds for the satellite broadcasting industry in an OTT world, he offers a pragmatic view, “If you can’t beat them, join them! That is why MEASAT has embarked on our very own CONNECTme service, currently with nearly 500,000 users and potentially having up to 1 million subscribers on this prepaid Wi-Fi satellite broadband platform. 

“We intend to build an OTT streaming platform to serve our subscribers, primarily focusing on educational content, but it could potentially host multiple FAST channels and attract significant advertising revenues as we have the eyeballs and control of the content delivery.”

Many mainstream broadcasters and distribution platforms are adding OTT services to augment their traditional cable and satellite packages, Intelsat’s Gaurav acknowledged. 

This development, however, should not diminish the relevance of satellite, as he highlighted, “Satellite can be used to expand the reach of today’s content delivery networks (CDNs), which mostly deliver OTT services in densely populated well-connected places, creating content-delivery mechanisms to mobile network towers, and providing edge-caching solutions to reduce congestion on networks.”

As part of hybrid distribution networks, satellite will also continue to be the most reliable and affordable option for distributing media in Asia-Pacific, Gaurav highlighted. “Satellite will give programmers access to more revenue and help to drive more innovative content than ever before.”

The future of satellite broadcasting will not be dependent on any one delivery mechanism alone, predicted Es’hailSat’s Hamad. “Satellites have an intrinsic advantage of being able to multi-cast content to a wide footprint of consumers and this will always be their forte.”

However, he cautioned that, for TV channels to remain effective and efficient in a world where the end user is consuming content with every possible device available to them, this ability to multi-cast content to large audiences with need to be combined with the flexibility and cost effectiveness of Internet delivery and contribution mechanisms, and flexible content management solutions such as playout and media services.

“While the mobile phone is in every hand and its impact cannot be denied, one cannot ignore the multiple television sets in every household and their convenience of delivering a premium quality viewing experience,” Hamad concluded.

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