At first sight it might seem that terrestrial TV and satellite TV compete directly with each other. In fact, they can work together very effectively. Satellite can come into play when terrestrial either can’t reach an area because of the geography with hills, mountains or valley blocking the digital signal. Sometimes people also want what digital TV offers before terrestrial rolls out, so bringing the same ‘free-to-air’ channels into homes. Satellite can also offer the emerging free-to-air high definition channels to more remote areas well ahead of the roll-out of the terrestrial version.
The roll-out of free-to-air channels over satellite is helped by the availability of a wide range of affordable satellite dishes and decoder boxes that are already being made for pay TV. This allows customers to chose what they want, whether its a low cost ‘zapper’ box, an personal video recorder (PVR) with a hard disk drive for recording programmes or an HD decoder, with or without the hard drive.
There is also a potential advantage for broadcasters who may be able to add other services alongside the free channels, which can include premium standard definition or high definition channels or near video on demand.
Far from being a competitor, satellite provides an extra way of getting a wide range of TV services to as many people as possible, no matter where they live.
This combination has worked well in France, where satellite was only expected to cover the 1.5m homes that would never receive free digital terrestrial TV. So far, 3.3m satellite sets have been sold to cover households located in area where the terrestrial reception was patchy or inexistent. Now the sales of satellite DDT boxes are driven by HD. Firstly, many viewers cannot receive free HD DTT via the terrestrial network. Secondly, people already equipped for DTT via satellite want to upgrade their equipment to receive HD channels: free HD DTT, FTA HD channels and/or to subscribe to satellite HD pay-TV offers.