01.05.2004 12:00 PM
Welcome to the HDTV neighborhood

Each of Galaxy XIII’s 24 transponders can carry two HDTV feeds, or 48 high-definition programming channels per satellite.

In another sign that 2004 may finally be the year of HDTV, PanAmSat, a satellite operator that distributes programming to local cable operators for transmission to their subscribers, switched many of its HDTV channels to a single new satellite called an “HDTV neighborhood.” The moved occurred January 1.

The idea is to aggregate HDTV content on a single satellite, making it easier for cable operators to find, receive and offer HD programming. PanAmSat, primarily owned by Hughes Electronics, thinks cable operators will react favorably to such a one-stop shopping mall concept for HD distribution, according to the New York Times.

PanAmSat operates a worldwide network of 30 satellites, which it uses mainly to transmit programming to cable operators and broadcasters. The company’s newest satellite, Galaxy XIII, has started to carry the HDTV feeds of networks such as HBO, Cinemax, Starz Encore and HDNet.

Additional HDTV programming will migrate to it and to PanAmSat’s next HD-oriented satellites, Galaxy XIV and XV, when they launch in 2004 and 2005.

The satellites use the company’s Power of Five marketing approach, created for analog program transmission in the early 1990’s. Under this system, cable operators will be able to receive programming from all three satellites with only one dish, eliminating the costs involved with multiple receiving equipment.

“For HDTV to succeed, you need to make its transmission efficient,” said Joseph R. Wright Jr., PanAmSat’s president and chief executive. Each of Galaxy XIII’s 24 transponders can carry two HDTV feeds, or 48 high-definition programming channels per satellite. Some transponders will be used to transmit standard-definition programming.

The satellite’s signal can reach cable operators serving 80 percent of the nation’s subscribers. Because a large amount of HDTV programming is carried on one satellite, it is possible that economies of scale will eventually reduce transmission fees, Wright contended.

PanAmSat predicts the growth in HDTV programming and the lower price of high-definition sets will fuel consumer demand for the new technology.

For more information visit www.panamsat.com.

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