Fight COVID-19 Channel: Coming Together to Deliver Crucial Information via Satellite

Fight COVID-19 Channel: Coming Together to Deliver Crucial Information via Satellite
Image of Kristina Smith-Meyer
Kristina Smith-Meyer

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the lives of millions across the world, and it’s clear that one of the greatest tools in support of this fight is information, which is why SES launched the Fight COVID-19 TV channel to inform people in the most remote and underserved regions about the coronavirus.

We spoke to Kristina Smith-Meyer, Senior Creative Marketing Communications Specialist at SES. As one of the Fight COVID-19 TV channel team leads, Kristina pulled all of the content together.

Tell us about the Fight COVID-19 channel.

The Fight COVID-19 channel includes a mix of content covering informational as well as mental wellbeing aspects of COVID-19. The channel is intended to complement the daily COVID-19 news that is broadcasted around the globe.

We wanted to work with various content providers to deliver trusted content to emerging markets and underserved areas across the world where TV is still relied on for vital information — regions where people may have satellite dishes installed.

Since Fight COVID-19 is a free-to-air (FTA) channel, anyone with a satellite dish in the regions we’re broadcasting to will be able to access the service for free.

What inspired the Fight COVID-19 channel?

Back in 2014, when West Africa was dealing with one of the worst outbreaks of Ebola, SES launched the Fight Ebola channel with the intention of delivering educational content to the people of West Africa. Fight Ebola was broadcast on Astra 2F at 28.2°E and SES-5 at 5°E — and served both pay-TV subscribers and FTA viewers in the region.

It was a huge effort involving multiple teams at SES. Seeing my colleagues put in time towards such a positive and meaningful project was a very humbling experience for me.

Now more recently we saw a similar situation evolve with COVID-19, and realised it was another opportunity to help — this time with a Fight COVID-19 channel. I feel just as proud of the SES team as I did back in 2014 — everyone was open to helping out in any way they could.  

How long has SES been working on this channel?

We had the advantage of our previous experience of launching Fight Ebola, and were able to utilise the same teams across SES — something that was welcomed by everyone.

We had our first discussions in April to understand if there was an appetite from our customers for such a channel. Once that affirmation was given, it was a case of drafting up legal contracts, figuring out what satellites we could broadcast from, and what platform to upload content to.

We also started reaching out to various content providers to source content. It was much easier to source COVID-19 content from day one, as COVID-19 impacts the whole world and multiple content producers and health organisations were already creating relevant content. Whereas in 2014, with Ebola affecting only a part of West Africa, sourcing educational content was a more difficult process.

We reached out to multiple independent content producers and creative agencies who have made amazing content with the sole intention of helping manage this pandemic. Bearing in mind that this was at the height of COVID-19 back in April, when everyone was struggling to cope with the lockdown, it was so rewarding for us to have positive reactions from content providers, such as, AFP and UNICEF.  

What kind of content is hosted on Fight COVID-19?

The channel has easy-to-understand, animated videos that explain what COVID-19 is, its symptoms, and social distancing practices.

In addition to bridging the information gap in rural and underserved regions of the world, we’re hoping the Fight COVID-19 channel can also help people feel connected and supported at a difficult time.

We have content focused on caring for children and adolescents — including discussions with psychologists around how to help teenagers adjust to a lockdown, and how to encourage children to stay active and social during this time.

The Fight COVID-19 channel also features stories from around the world — like a vignette of an 85-year-old man screaming the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” off his apartment balcony in Manhattan, or a mother meeting her new-born for the first time after recovering from COVID-19. These kinds of stories reflect the strength of the people worldwide and are what keeps people – myself included - going and staying positive through this pandemic.

The team at SES will continue to reach out to new content owners to ensure there’s always relevant content on the channel. So if anyone out there is reading this and would like to contribute – please do reach out to us!