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Ultra HD TV standard will become a marketable product soon
Martin Ornass-Kubacki, Vice President & Chief Regional Officer, ASTRA CEE
AUTHOR: Atanas Georgiev

Mr. Ornass-Kubacki, what is the current status of the communications market in Central and Eastern Europe and what is the position of ASTRA CEE in it?

The communications market in CEE is the best tool for the countries in the region to boost their economic growth and catch up with the rest of Europe. DTH business chain (DTH is our core business) involves lot of companies, distributors etc. and creates new jobs. The number of DTH (direct-to-home) subscribers is increasing and new services are being marketed on regular basis. Subscribers now receive more  HD channels and broadcasters and producers focus on improving the quality of their products. Just to illustrate this argument I can share with you that recently Orange in Romania have started a new DTH platform using multiple transponders on ASTRA 31,5 E. The offer includes 40 HD channels in a bouquet of more than 100 channels. It is the highest number of HD channels offered in Romania and it’s a rare case of offering such attractive content in Europe. ASTRA is a global leader in the satellite business with its 53 geostationary satellites and we continuously expand the number of services and improve their technological advancement.  

What are the main technological innovations in your market, that can support the economics development in this part of Europe?

Ultra HD TV standard is such an innovation which will become a marketable product soon. SES recently pioneered the first real UHDTV satellite broadcast and a new encryption allowing it to become a market reality. We offer free trials of UHDTV content via our satellites, for broadcasters and future partners. We also focus now on the technology for the household called SAT>IP. It will allow satellite signal to be captured and broadcasted within the household via the wireless network and the TV channels can be viewed on every Wi-Fi enabled device with a screen such as TV sets, laptops, smartphones, pads. Satellite internet is a part of our offer as well. Basically higher quality and easier access, those are the two main tendencies in the communication market, which factor the continuous growth.  

Digital broadcasting of TV in Bulgaria has already started this year. What are your expectations for the national market?

The digitalization was delayed a little bit in your market. The viewers have the right to receive a quality product and new services, what is the aim of the digitalization. We have observed and participated in the digital switchover on several markets in CEE but usually it’s run in parallel: terrestrially and on satellite as well. DTH is a perfect complimentary option to the digitalization and can be helpful in Bulgaria as well, as proven for example in Czech Republic and Slovakia. In these two relatively small markets the biggest DTH platforms CS Link and Skylink have gained almost 2,5mln customers for few years only. Simply, satellite covers entire territory without „white zones”. Therefore, we think it would be benefficial for Bulgarian audience if DTT channels would be also launched on satellite.

Is there a possibility for high-tech “clusters” in Bulgaria and the SEE (?) region that may support innovations and market development?

Bulgaria has a strong tradition in education. This is a good base for high-tech production. I understand that currently you export lots of software products. I`m pretty sure that you have your place in the global market. Satellite technologies could further boost high-tech businesses. At the same time there is a market niche for further DTH growth. Thirty per cent of TV households in Bulgaria are DTH subscribers and a market study shows that 51% of the population know that satellite reception is the most reliable. So there is a DTH market potential as well.

There have been some recent developments in your company related to new services like air traffic control over large water areas. Could you tell us more about this project?

The ADS-B system allows air traffic identification from space over significant areas of the world, which were so far unmonitored. We took part in a project of the European Space Agency which aims to reduce flight related risks, fuel consumption, and improve operations in low visibility. In the EU from 2017 all aircrafts above 5,700 km weight will have to be equipped with an onboard device, which will help the identification from 820 km in space orbit. This project is important for us, because it will tell us if we can use this orbit for commercial purposes later.

What are your expectations for the markets in South East Europe? What are the new services, that you have implemented or plan to introduce?

In SEE region we have already some presence – our high power satellites cover perfectly well the region. So we are definitely looking forward to welcome TV and radio broadcasters on our fleet!
SEE is not trail behind, but grabbing the bull by the horns and try to make the most of the technological advantages of the new decade. HD, UHDTV, SAT>IP, Satellite Internet are just some of the technologies which provide sustainable growth in the market. SES is planning to broadcast the next Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro in UHDTV. We are working already with broadcasters and set-top-box producers to make the technology a commercial reality.

Mr. Martin Ornass-Kubacki joined SES Astra on the beginning of 2003 and initially served as a Managing Director of Astra Central Eastern Europe (CEE) which at that time was based in Vienna, Austria.

With responsibility on 5 countries (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia) he and his team were responsible for SES Astra business development, presales, marketing and PR operation across the region. Since merger of Astra CEE and Astra Polska, Astra operates in the region under Astra Central Eastern Europe brand with a regional office hub in Warsaw. Since middle of 2010 the responsibilities  of Astra Central Eastern Europe were extended and now Warsaw office serves  Polish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Balkan region and Martin Ornass-Kubacki is heading, as a Vice President and Chief Regional Officer, entire operation.

Martin Ornass-Kubacki has over 14 years media industry experience (both on production as well as on editorial side), with a strong background in Central and Eastern Europe: starting his career with EBN TV in London, he was then employed by At Entertainment  Inc. a company which found and co-owned the  first DTH platform in Central Eastern Europe (Polish Wizja TV). As a Managing Director of the 1st thematic, digital sport channel (Wizja Sport) he and his team were responsible for entire set up of that pioneering project. Later on he worked for UPC Direct in Poland where apart of being Managing Director of Wizja Sport he was also involved in content aggregation and production across entire Wizja TV platform. He also became  a member of the supervisory board of affiliated content company Wizja TV Programming. Martin studied Culture Management at Hagen University and holds a Master degree in Visual Communication.

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