Gearing up to broadcast major elections in 2019
A critical season in the broadcast industry
India, with a population of 1.3 billion , is the world’s largest democracy and the seventh largest in terms of area . Indonesia, meanwhile, is the world’s third largest democracy, with a population of 260 million across over 17,000 islands . And Australia, with a population of only about 25 million, is the seventh largest country in terms of area, ahead of India .
In April and May this year Indonesia, India and Australia will all be conducting their General Elections, each a massive national event that will keep broadcasters and news agencies busy in the coming months. Together, broadcasters will serve a potential audience of nearly 1.6 billion emotionally-charged viewers in a combined area larger than the U.S.A.
When election season begins, broadcasters need to be prepared for a stream of breaking news across the country, culminating in Polling Day and the announcement of the results. Along with this is an expected spike in network viewership, especially for news channels. Hindi news networks in India, for example, will likely see a much larger audience than the current average of 309 million viewers per week .
Local and regional networks will need to transmit to and from thousands of remote areas throughout all three countries, providing near real-time, on-the-ground updates or live feeds of campaigns, rallies and results. To stay competitive, broadcasters will have to deliver both linear and over-the-top (OTT) election content, and ensure accessibility across multiple devices.
If broadcasters manage to do this successfully, election season can mean a tremendous increase in advertising revenues. In India, for example, a report by Best Media Info predicted that advertising revenues should increase by at least 30% during the 2019 season, both from political and commercial ads .
Why elections are a unique broadcasting event
News events, such as elections, have often been compared with sports broadcasting because of the need for live video and the massive viewership. Indeed, the two do share certain common deliverables: low latency and near real-time transmission rates, made available on linear and OTT TV, including video-on-demand (VOD). But there are also significant differences that can make broadcasting elections even more challenging than sports, both technically and commercially, especially in Asia-Pacific.
Elections, unlike major sporting events, do not have an event owner who owns and distributes broadcasting rights. News agencies, as well as local, regional and international networks will all be competing to provide the best content, making competition stiff for individual broadcasters. In such a scenario, reliability and quality are key to expanding viewership and increasing advertising revenues.
Accessing remote areas
One significant characteristic of news broadcasting is the need to provide live footage from remote areas. Unlike regular breaking news events, where the need arises only at a location of interest, elections require thousands of simultaneous uplink and downlink transmissions across every electoral district.
In countries like India, Indonesia and Australia, many areas remain unconnected via terrestrial networks, making satellites the only effective method of live broadcasting. Even in a highly-mature economy like Australia’s, where 99% of the population owns a mobile phone, only 30% of the land mass is connected . To broadcast in these areas, satellites remain the only viable option even for cable and terrestrial providers, who are now able to take advantage of satellite technologies to complement their existing infrastructure. Cable distributors can receive satellite feeds from cable head-ends, or integrate their networks with SES’s direct-to-home (DTH) services. Likewise, terrestrial TV networks can receive DTH signals using their terrestrial transmitters without any infrastructure expansion .
A partnership with a reliable satellite operator can ensure continuous, seamless broadcasting across all networks. For example, SES-9, a satellite with 81 Ku-band transponders, covers Indonesia with a high-powered dedicated beam. Meanwhile, the successful launch of SES-12 “would help support India's growing DTH TV market, as more and more consumers in rural India embrace the medium,” according to Deepak Mathur, Executive Vice President of Global Sales at SES Video. Together with SES-8, it is expected to reach 18 million homes .
The unpredictability of elections
From the start of campaigning to Polling Day, anything can happen. To capture the latest breaking news, broadcasters and news agencies need to be on call and on the field throughout the entire period. This relies heavily on Satellite News Gathering (SNG) trucks with mobile, very-small-aperture terminals (VSATs) that can quickly transmit the latest feeds to the production studio. From there, content must be rapidly aggregated and delivered, so that audiences can watch the proceedings in near real-time.
Coordinating thousands of SNG trucks can be a challenge. To address this issue, SES’s media services division MX1 provides specialist SNG services that include full production, post-production and operational capabilities . From the SNG truck, content can be delivered straight to SES’s cloud-based MX1 360 platform, which unifies content aggregation and delivery of live, linear or non-linear content across any broadcast, OTT and VoD platforms. 
Leading global news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), for example, has adopted MX1 360 for its AFPTV Live platform that enables live IP delivery to its clients. This allows AFP’s news editors, stationed all over the world, to access content immediately and to prepare it for delivery to AFP’s global clients, streamlining the entire broadcast-to-delivery process .
Elections are resource-intensive and revenue-critical events for broadcasters. The large, diverse geographies of India, Australia and Indonesia make it especially challenging for broadcasters to meet viewership demands. A partner with experience and expertise in this arena can mitigate risks involved and help broadcasters focus on their core area of competence — producing top-quality content.
Contact us today to learn more about how SES can assist you in delivering live events in real-time.
 Broadcast Audience Research Council India: The Changing Face of TV in India
 Best Media Info: News channels expect 30% jump in revenue in upcoming election season
 SpaceTech Asia: Dr Megan Clark details the priorities of the Australian Space Agency
 SES: DTC & DTT
 Indiantelevision.com: Launch of SES-12 to assist digital vision
 MX1: Production Services
 MX1: MX1 360 Brochure 2018
 SES: Agence France-Presse (AFP) — Beyond Breaking News