New Bird Expands DirecTV's HD Pipe
Speculation ensues over possible 3D service
By Glen Dickson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/29/2009 7:09:39 PM
The Boeing 702 model satellite lifted off on an International Launch Services Proton Breeze M vehicle at 4:22 p.m. PT Monday Dec. 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and ground station controllers in South Africa have made contact with the satellite and confirmed that all systems are functioning properly, DirecTV said Wednesday. DirecTV 12 is the eleventh owned-and-operated satellite in the DirecTV fleet, and it will be maneuvered into a circular orbit at 102.8 degrees West longitude.
It will join four other DirecTV birds that already deliver HD programming, allowing the pay-TV operator to deliver over 200 HD channels, compared to just over 130 today. The new satellite will also increase DirecTV's delivery of local HD broadcasts and expand movie choices on its DIRECTV Cinema and DIRECTV on Demand services.
"With the successful launch of our DIRECTV 12 satellite, we will have the capacity to dramatically expand HD and movie choices for our customers and further extend our content and technology leadership," said DirecTV CTO Romulo Pontual in a statement. "With a robust fleet of 11 satellites, including five spacecraft delivering HD programming, advanced transmission and set-top box technology, we are able to provide our customers with an unparalleled viewing experience and maintain a significant competitive advantage for many years to come."
The launch of the new satellite is also fueling speculation that DirecTV will launch a 3D HD service next year, something 3D insiders have suggested privately for months. The blog HDGuru.com reported yesterday that DirecTV will use DirecTV 12 to start an all-3D HD channel offering an assortment of movies, sports and programs in 3D, and that it will announce the new service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week. According to the report, which cited unnamed sources, DirecTV's current HDTV boxes will receive a firmware upgrade to allow existing subscribers to receive HD 3D programming that will be compatible with new 3D-capable HDTV sets from Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, LG and other TV makers, as well as existing Mitsubishi DLP sets that will require a 3D converter box. All the sets would require DirecTV subscribers to wear special glasses to view the 3D content.
DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said he couldn't comment on the HDGuru.com story. But in an email message, Mercer did allow that "3D is something we are very interested in and we're looking at all of the various pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together."
While 3D has created buzz in movie theaters, including both theatrical titles like "Avatar" and live broadcasts of sporting events such as last year's BCS college football championship game, delivering it to the living room remains a challenge for multichannel operators. DirecTV is seen as the most likely U.S. pay-TV operator to launch a 3D service because it enjoys a national footprint, it has already deployed bandwidth-efficient MPEG-4 set-tops with powerful processing chips, and moreover, it has already established the precedent of selling expensive subscription packages like "NFL Sunday Ticket" to sports aficionados.
Sports executives say that a pay-per-view model would be necessary to subsidize the high costs of live 3D HD production, and several have suggested that DirecTV could launch a year-round "3D Sunday Ticket" with a mix of 3D sports coverage throughout the year.
Movies and other entertainment content would be more readily available in 3D, given how many new 3D productions are coming into the pipeline. Archive content can also be converted from 2D to 3D through a variety of post-production processes, and an Edison, N.J. firm called HDLogix says it can convert 2D content to 3D in real-time using sophisticated processing software. HDLogix demonstrated its technology during a Dallas Cowboys game earlier this month, but it was only used to create anaglyph 3D images, not the stereoscopic 3D format that is being adopted by major set-makers. HDLogix plans to demonstrate live 2D to stereoscopic 3D conversion at CES next week.
HDLogix is one of several firms offering such "dimensionalization" technology, says Discovery Chief Media Technology Officer John Honeycutt, who is watching such technology closely but has no firm 3D plans. Honeycutt is dubious about the ability to do such 2D to 3D conversion in real-time. But he thinks that intensive software processing might be a cost-effective way to take Discovery archive content and make it 3D in post-production, as opposed to the extra costs of producing new shows in 3D.
"I have not seen a real-time one that's blown me away," says Honeycutt. "From our perspective, we're focused on quality. If there's a post-production process that takes a few hours and you can get it right, that may be more cost-effective, and it may be possible to provide a 3D experience."
And N2YO DOT COM will guide those concern about DirecTV 12. Expand hd programing by 50%.
2nd. How many Retro TV feeds will DirecTV have to provide by spotbeam?
3rd. Broadcaster demand to much. Will drive Dish Network and DirecTV in the ground.
4th. I hope some stupid senator doesn't louse this up. A must carry to every hdtv must carry. Let must carry only to cbs, nbc, abc, fox, cw, and mynetwork. 2004 legislation for petesakes.
RV Owner. - 12/29/2009 8:26:59 PM EST
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