ARD to leave Eutelsat Hotbird

German public broadcaster ARD will terminate the distribution of its main TV channel Das Erste on Eutelsat’s Hotbird satellite system at 13° East on March 31, 2017.

The availability of ARD’s channels in Germany is now fully ensured through the satellites of SES Astra, an ARD Digital spokesman confirmed to Broadband TV News. An additional distribution via Eutelsat would therefore no longer be justified for the intended coverage area of Das Erste.

For viewers receiving Das Erste outside Germany through Eutelsat who can’t use the Astra satellite position at 19.2° East, the spokesman points to the live-stream of Das Erste on the internet, adding that there was also the possibility to access catch-up service Das Erste Mediathek this way to watch the channel’s programmes.

Hotbird mainly served soldiers, expats, tourists and hotels in regions not covered by Astra, for example in the Middle East and North Africa. In June 2010, ARD already terminated its Hotbird transmission, but returned following criticism by the army and politicians, particularly to serve the more than 5,000 German soldiers based in the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan with Das Erste’s programmes.

The free-to-air Hotbird distribution lead to several conflicts with rights holders because of its larger footprint compared with Astra. For example, ARD and fellow public broadcaster ZDF removed their Hotbird signals during the FIFA Football World Cup 2014 to avoid a legal dispute with beIN Sports.

The Al Jazeera subsidiary showed the World Cup games exclusively on its pay-TV service in the Middle East and North Africa and was afraid of its rights being devalued if viewers were able to watch the matches for free on ARD and ZDF. ZDF will not follow ARD’s example: The Hotbird distribution will not be terminated on March 31, 2017, a ZDF spokeswoman told Broadband TV News.

This article was first published on Broadband TV News on March 21, 2017 11.59 Europe/London By Jörn Krieger