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Satellite overtakes cable in Germany

Direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV overtook cable in Germany for the first time near the end of 2011, gaining 900,000 subscribers over the year.

Cable lost an identical number to finish 2011, just behind at 17.3 million households compared with 17.5 million for satellite. The reasons for this changing order are partly related to content, with satellite operator Sky Deutschland, the country’s only pay TV service, having significant rights to the country’s leading football league, the Bundesliga. The operator now aims to make further subscriber gains by consolidating its hold on Bundesliga rights by launching a share issue expected to raise €155.8 million ($210 million). Germany’s football rights bidding structure allows participants to bid for all rights on a single platform, or a specific kick-off time for all platforms. But, a single bid for the whole lot would also be considered if it represented the best deal for the Bundesliga, and realistically only Sky Deutschland is in a position to make such a bid. It already has two million of its customers taking the premium Bundesliga package. A likely outcome, then, is a further strengthening of Sky Deutschland’s position.

Another reason satellite has been gaining in Germany, as in many other markets, is a result of its near universal coverage, and the efficiencies yielded by digitization, and especially the second generation DVB-S2 technology that enables large numbers of HD channels to be delivered. HDTV remains the most important driver for digitalization in the country and to an extent also for the migration from cable to satellite. There are now 5.9 million satellite households in Germany watching TV in HD, about one-third of all DTH households. Astra currently offers 37 HD channels in Germany, with the number expected to rise to more than 50 HD channels by the end of 2012.

Furthermore, 68 percent of viewers that already have some HD want to watch more, with 66 percent saying they distinctly prefer HD to standard definition. HD plays an important role for this group in their choice of programs, with 36 percent saying this factor alone can determine viewing choices.

Meanwhile, digital terrestrial continued its decline in Germany, falling by 180,000 over the year to 1.8 million households. IPTV though continued to grow, adding 300,000 households to reach 1.3 million households by the end of 2011. These figures come from the study "TV Monitor 2011," conducted by market research group TNS Infratest for the Astra satellite operator SES. The survey certainly delivered the news its client wanted to hear.