C4HD Satellite Capacity Delays Launch

Speaking with Channel 4 today, we have found out that C4HD is free of its original contract with Sky but lack of space on the appropriate satellite beam is the cause for the high-definition service not being available on the Freesat platform at this time.

As a UK broadcaster, restrictions mean that Channel 4, along with BBC, ITV and Five can only offer their channels in-the-clear if they are broadcast from the tighter 2D beam on the Astra2 satellite; either that or by means of restricted access such as ITV HD.

The high def simulcast is currently available to subscribers of Sky HD and Virgin Media HD, but will also be made available on other platforms including Freesat in future; unfortunately, there is no satellite capacity for our HD channel on Freesat at present.

Unfortunately the 2D beam transponders are already full, with some broadcasters such as BBC reducing the quality of their HD offering in the hope of gaining more space for potential future channels and services. Channel 4 currently lease two of the transponders but are already at full capacity using them for their range of channels already FTA (free-to-air), such as Channel 4, E4, More4, Film4 plus the 1 hour time-shifts and regional variants.

Unless more space can be made available, or channels are moved around, it will be extremely difficult for C4HD, as well as Fiver and Five US to launch FTA on the Freesat platform. The channels currently filling the 2D beam include the following, no surprises that Sky have encrypted/subscription channels taking up valuable space, but they lease it, so are entitled to it:

At The Races (encrypted)
BBC 1 (all regions)
Channel 4 (all regions)
Channel 4 +1 (all regions)
Channel TV
Current TV
Disney Channel (encrypted)
Disney Channel +1 (encrypted)
Disney Cinemagic (encrypted)
Disney Cinemagic +1 (encrypted)
E4 +1
Film 4
Film 4 +1
FX UK +2 (encrypted)
ITV 1 (all regions)
ITV 2 +1
ITV 3 +1
ITV 4 +1
Men & Motors
More 4
More 4 +1
NDTV 24×7
Playhouse Disney (encrypted)
Playhouse Disney +1 (encrypted)
RTE One (encrypted)
RTE Two (encrypted)
Scottish TV (all regions)
Sky Box Office
Sky Real Lives (encrypted)
Sky Real Lives +1 (encrypted)
Sky Real Lives 2 (encrypted)
Sky Sports 2 (pubs – commercial) (encrypted)
Sky Sports Active
Sky Travel Shop (encrypted)
Sky Travel Shop (encrypted)
TG4 (encrypted)
TV3 (encrypted)
Ulster TV

Channel 4 are working to resolve this matter, and have been carrying out tests over the past few weeks since we believe their contract with Sky ended in July 2009. Lets hope that something can be sorted and C4HD can be fairly distributed across all platforms, especially given they are a UK public broadcaster.

Update (24th August 2009)

Official response from Freesat:

Although capacity on the Astra2D satellite is currently in short supply, the situation can change. Other capacity is available although it may not be suitable for some broadcasters depending on the rights they hold with content owners.

Freesat continues to talk with broadcasters about bringing HD content onto the platform and is confident of being able to offer more HD in the future.