TAMPA, Fla. — SES is underlining its confidence in Europe’s broadcast market with the order of two replacement geostationary (GEO) Ku-band satellites.
The satellite operator picked Europe’s Thales Alenia Space to build the ASTRA 1P and ASTRA 1Q spacecraft for a launch in 2024 to 19.2 degrees East, where they will serve major broadcasters across Germany, France and Spain.
Despite a secular decline in satellite TV trends in recent years, compelling SES and other operators to invest in connectivity and data markets for growth, the operator pointed rising demand for HD channels in Europe.
Its existing satellites at 19.2 degrees East serve 118 million households, or more than 43% of all European TV homes, where demand for HD content has increased 30% in the past five years.
“Our prime TV neighbourhood at 19.2 degrees East is one of our most valuable assets and has been key to enabling renowned European broadcasters to grow their TV audiences in the last 30 years,” SES CEO Steve Collar said in a statement.
“These two satellites will have the resiliency, reliability and redundancy that our video customers need, and will be able to deliver continued premium services well into 2040.”
However, while ASTRA 1P is a classic wide-beam satellite based on Thales Alenia Space’s Spacebus NEO fully electric product line, ASTRA 1Q is part of a new breed of software-defined spacecraft that enables it to be reprogrammed in orbit to serve data markets if needed.
Collar said it is “future-proofing our investment and injecting a high degree of flexibility into ASTRA 1Q to ensure we are meeting the evolving needs of all the markets we serve.”
An SES official added: “The current satellites [ASTRA 1P and ASTRA 1Q are replacing] were launched some 10-15 years ago, which means that we are replacing our satellites way ahead of these satellites’ end of life.”
Thales Alenia Space built SES-17, one of the first fully software-defined satellites, that Arianespace launched Oc. 23.
It is also currently building SES-22 and SES-23, two C-band satellites that will serve television broadcast markets.
SES recently recorded 785 million euros ($908 million) in underlying video revenue for the year to date. Although that is a 4.1% reduction when adjusted for foreign exchange rates, it is less than the 8% drop recorded the previous year.
Underlying video revenue fell 4.6% year-on-year for the third quarter of 2021 to 259 million euros.
Against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to disrupt the broader satellite industry, SES said total revenues fell 3.2% to 444 million euros for the three months to the end of September 2021, compared with the same period in 2020 when adjusted for foreign exchange rates.