Just one transponder in Channel 5/SES satellite carriage agreement

  • Channel 5 HD remains on Sky transponder

The operator of the Astra satellite system delivering Sky and Freesat services to the UK has announced that it has signed a "long-term renewal with Channel 5 for one transponder that it is using on the ASTRA Satellite System at 28.2 degrees East."

Channel 5's HD service is on a separate transponder and is hosted by Sky, where it remains exclusive to viewers with Sky HD digiboxes. Today's announcement indicates that Channel 5 has not acquired separate capacity of its own to host Channel 5 HD, ruling out a move to free-to-air and Freesat distribution like the other primary UK TV channels for the time being.

Since last December, Channel 5 has used its one transponder allocation, currently transmitted from the Astra 1N satellite, to broadcast five regional advertising variants of Channel 5 plus Channel 5+1, 5*, 5*+1, 5 USA and 5 USA+1 - a total of ten video streams on the transponder.

This has created criticism on internet sites, who note that the picture quality of Channel 5 and its digital offshoot stations are quite poor, owing to low bitrates due to so many services sharing the same transponder. Some services also use lower resolution. It appears there will be no change to the current set up.

Paul Dunthorne, Channel 5, Director of Channels & Operations, said: "Since our launch in the late 1990s we've enjoyed a very successful relationship with SES, based on the company's unrivalled back-up facilities together with its excellent technical expertise, which are all crucial broadcasting requirements."

Ferdinand Kayser, Chief Commercial Officer of SES, said: "This important deal is an excellent endorsement of the quality and strength of our service and highlights Channel 5's long term confidence in SES."

  1 minute history: Channel 5 on satellite
Channel 5 first appeared on the Astra 1 satellite system at 19.2 degrees East in 1997, when that satellite position was used for UK analogue satellite services. With the move to digital television from 1998 onwards, Channel 5 moved over to Astra 2 at 28.2 degrees East, and in 2001 Channel 5 analogue left Astra 1 along with other Sky channels, leaving the 19.2 degrees East orbital position for primary use by French, German and some Spanish digital services, and until earlier this year German analogue channels. Meanwhile Channel 5's digital offshoots launched in 2006 remained Sky only (via satellite) until last December when they went free-to-air.
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