Exclusive: ARD and ZDF postpone SD shutdown by several years

© obs / ARD ZDF

The original shutdown date of January 12, 2021 is finally off the table. The public service broadcasters fund across the board, the KEF does not approve any new fee money for this.

The information campaign on ARD and ZDF should actually be lengthy and inform the viewers that from 12 January 2021 the public service programs can only be received in HD quality via satellite. But hesitant directors, the corona pandemic, during which an information campaign is hardly possible, and a satellite operator, with which more and more transponders remain empty, have brought down the SD shutdown in Germany. According to information from DIGITAL TELEVISION, SES Astra has given ARD and ZDF extremely attractive special conditions when ARD + ZDF transmit their SD signals via satellite. An extension until 2024 is under discussion, which some institutions are said to have already signed.

Usually, a satellite transponder in the orbital position 19.2 degrees East costs around 3 million euros per year. For SD broadcasting, the ARD needs three and a half for their TV programs, the ZDF a transponder. In addition to the 13.5 million euros in satellite costs per year, the transmitters would also incur similar costs for additional transmission processing (signaling) and cable feed-in fees. The commission for determining the financial requirements of the broadcasting corporations (KEF) had already advocated an early SD shutdown years ago and has not approved any fee payments for this since the summer of this year. For example, according to the 22nd KEF report, ZDF registered 42.298 million euros for the complete satellite broadcast for the period 2021-2024, while it was 59.946 million euros for the period 2017-2020. According to the report, the ARD reported 210.945 million euros for 2017-2020 and only 173.508 million euros for 2021-2024. ARD and ZDF must therefore cross-finance the SD extension. H. from the ever decreasing reserves, through savings in content (films, sports rights) or with fewer investments in technology. It is feared that this will further delay the introduction of Ultra-HD, which is almost four times sharper HD.

The two large private broadcasters had long announced that they would stick to the unencrypted SD broadcast in order to continue to reach the entire population and remain relevant to advertising. Their HD signals have been encrypted since 2009 and are marketed as pay TV. With satellite reception, the acceptance of private HD signals among viewers has been stalling for years. Diveo and Freenet have given up sat marketing again, HD plus no longer publishes subscription numbers. The revenue model only works to a certain extent on the reception channels where the viewer has no choice (DVB-T2) or the private broadcaster fees are hidden in the connection costs (cable, IPTV).

The smaller private channels, which did not encrypt their HD channels and also wanted to switch off SD in the coming year, are now under pressure. Also extend or switch off anyway? Will the satellite operator SES give you similarly good special conditions as for ARD and ZDF? SES Astra have largely met the public law requirements for transponder fees, industry insiders told DIGITAL TELEVISION. After the cancellation of the major sporting events this year, the multi-year postponement of the SD shutdown means a medium-sized loss of sales for the hardware manufacturers. Because without conversion, many headends will continue to run in SD.

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