Voom HD Networks, part of Rainbow Media, is in final contract discussions with BSkyB over plans to launch two HD channels over the UK and Ireland.
“In Europe as far as satellite is concerned, we are close to about 10 different markets, again all of which are finalising their plans for us,” comments Glenn Oakley, SVP Business Development at Voom. “Canal Digital has an available signal, so we are very excited. The beauty of this business is its very scalability, with the signal being able to be drawn down easily. Our cable operators are taking us in MPEG2.”
“Internationally we are testing in MPEG2, and in readiness for a switch to 1080i MPEG4 on Measat which covers 110 countries in the Far East and Asian regions,” Oakley adds.
Which is not to say signal distribution in HD is easy, says Oakley: “The interesting thing is that so many of the actual broadcast elements needed to get a signal to the viewer at home, that are commonplace in SD or even MPEG2, are not yet available in MPEG4. Think about elements like subtitling. It is all catching up, and very quickly, but it doesn’t seem to be there just yet. We would have preferred MPEG4 for the obvious bandwidth savings, but our local affiliates, for the moment, seem happy with the MPEG2 signal. So the workflow seems to be to have the MPEG2 signal, add in elements like subtitles where necessary and then convert to MPEG4.”
Voom, in essence, is now supplying three potential services to broadcasters: Voom’s own standalone channels, Voom’s programming titles sold on an individual content sales basis, and Voom-branded day-part blocks as nested services. “People are very open and accepting as to what we have on offer. They like our programming. We are now in 35 countries, and created a very scalable service. The demand is increasing and we are backfilling with satellite distribution,” says Oakley.
“But we cannot be complacent,” he adds. “Our clients tell us they want more. There’s a real lack of HD content worldwide, and we have more than anyone else and it’s all rights cleared and we’re ready to go. We had a call on Friday from BSkyB, asking whether we were ready to go, and this will accelerate the process with two channels. We might have liked [the launch] to be later next year when the subs numbers were even better, but we’re on plan with a launch of multiple channels.”
“The next set of challenges is in taking advantage of the scale, boosting the number of channels being distributed. We think there’s a very bright future for HD in 2008 and we want to be part of that,” says Oakley. “It’s the future of television. We are not stopping at one or two international channels. We have 15 in the US, and that’s what’s on our road map. It’s a matter of time and settop boxes in the market. Broadcasters now know they cannot launch with just one HD channel. They need two, or four, and far more. We’re ready.”