Eutelsat taking financial hit from TV sanctions against Russia and Iran

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TAMPA, Fla. — French satellite operator Eutelsat said Dec. 22 it stands to lose up to 15 million euros ($16 million) in annual revenues from restricting broadcasts in Russia and Iran to comply with sanctions.

The amount represents 2.2% of the broadcast revenues Eutelsat reported for its previous fiscal year to the end of June 2022, or 1.3% of total revenues for a company that has been growing its connectivity business as the broader satellite TV market gradually declines.

The operator said it has now “ended all involvement in the broadcast” of three Russian propaganda channels and ceased all broadcasts related to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), a state-controlled media company.

“Eutelsat has also ensured that it is not involved in the broadcasting of RT News in Russia,” Eutelsat said in a news release, referring to the TV network funded by the Russian government.

According to Eutelsat, these measures will reduce revenues for its fiscal year to the end of June by between 10 million and 15 million euros.

Eutelsat now expects revenues for this fiscal year to come in between 1.14 billion and 1.2 billion euros. 

The company said complying with international sanctions against Iran and Russia will also shave between 15 million and 20 million euros off annual EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

France’s TV regulator gave Eutelsat a week to stop broadcasting Russia’s Rossiya 1, Perviy Kanal, and NTV Dec. 14, following European sanctions stemming from their coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Eutelsat had been distributing these channels via capacity leased from three satellites operated by Russia’s RSCC: Ekspress-AMU1 (known commercially as Eutelsat 36C), Ekspress AT1, and Ekspress AT2.

“Eutelsat has amended the legal framework of its operations in Russia in order to make sure that no Eutelsat-leased capacity is used by the sanctioned channels anymore,” Eutelsat spokesperson Anita Baltagi told SpaceNews.

Russia is still able to broadcast channels sanctioned by the European Union via the capacity it controls on these and other satellites.

For Iran, Baltagi said Eutelsat had “a direct contract” with IRIB to use capacity on Hotbird, a satellite fully owned by the French operator.

The European Union singled out IRIB in a round of sanctions Dec. 12 following a violent crackdown on a major women’s protest movement in Iran.

“IRIB is responsible for producing and broadcasting the forced confessions of detainees, including journalists, political activists, and persons belonging to Kurdish and Arab minorities, thereby violating internationally recognised rights to a fair trial and due process,” the Council of the European Union stated.

“IRIB is therefore responsible for serious human rights violations in Iran.”

IRIB controls Press TV, the Iranian news channel that was the target of earlier European sanctions. 

Eutelsat previously told SpaceNews it did not have a direct commercial relationship with Press TV and so had been relying on distributors and partners to drop the channel.