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  • Sony Pictures, NEC Join PanAmSat's HDTV Demonstration
  • July 17, 1998 (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Sony Corp. and NEC Corp. participated in a recent demonstration of high-definition TV (HDTV) satellite broadcasting technology organized by PanAmSat Corp., a major satellite operator based in Greenwich, Conn.
    Sony joined the HDTV demonstration through its Sony Pictures Entertainment unit, and NEC teamed up in the test as a supplier of equipment. Mitsubishi Electric Corp. also joined via its Mitsubishi-Tektronix HDTV venture (representing a team of Mitsubishi Electric America Inc. and Tektronix Inc.).

    In total, more than a dozen broadcasting companies and developers of HDTV technology took part in the live demonstration of multiple HDTV systems via satellite.

    During the event, electronics and TV equipment vendors conducted tests of their HDTV systems from PanAmSat's Napa teleport facility, using the PAS-2 Pacific Ocean Region communications satellite. The Napa teleport is in the Napa wine country, northeast of San Francisco, Calif.

    Broadcasters and programmers viewing the HDTV demonstrations included CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co., General Electric Co.'s NBC unit, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. (the operator of CNN) and Viacom Inc. (which owns Paramount).

    Japanese customers of PanAmSat include Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK - Japan Broadcasting Corp.), Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), TV Asahi, NTV and Bekkoame Internet. Hughes Electronics Inc. owns a controlling interest in PanAmSat.

    PanAmSat has been a leader in digital television services via satellite since the early 1990s. PanAmSat was the first to use compressed digital video services for cable distribution worldwide and the company is moving toward delivery of HDTV via satellite for broadcasters and program companies. Digital TV services will start in the United States market this autumn, and HDTV will follow later.

    "This two-day demonstration is facilitating the practical implementation of HDTV technology and services in the United States," said Robert Bednarek, PanAmSat's senior vice president and chief technology officer.

    "PanAmSat is creating an important forum for broadcasters to see HDTV in action, scrutinize system options and implement their HDTV plans under the U.S. deadlines set by the Federal Communications Commission," said David P. Berman, PanAmSat's senior vice president of program distribution. "Satellites are uniquely capable of supporting any configuration of HDTV transmissions, and PanAmSat has unparalleled satellite resources to make the delivery of HDTV a reality for broadcasters and programmers in the United States and around the world."

    HDTV equipment vendors conducting satellite system demonstrations included Thompson, Sony, NEC, Mitsubishi-Tektronix and others.

    Each test starts with high definition TV source material at a 1.5Gbps data rate. Using each vendor's HDTV equipment, the material is encoded into a post-production quality video signal at 45Mbps or distribution-quality video signal at 19.3Mbps. Next, the video is uplinked from the Napa facility to PanAmSat's PAS-2 satellite in either the 1080I or 720P HDTV formats. The satellite transmissions comply with MPEG-2/DVB, the latest global video standard for compressed digital video services, according to PanAmSat.

    The HDTV satellite transmissions are accessed again at Napa, demodulated and decoded into the HDTV format using the vendor's integrated receiver/decoder, and signals are displayed on HDTV monitors. PanAmSat said it provides bit error rate analysis to measure the overall quality of HDTV transmissions.

    PanAmSat is one of the largest commercial providers of satellite-based communications services. The company operates a global network of 16 satellites, including those in the Galaxy series. The company provides communications services and video distribution to hundreds of corporate customers worldwide.

    The satellite operator was the first U.S. company to obtain a Type One telecom carrier license for international service from Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, in November 1995. It plans to orbit the PAS-7 and PAS-8 satellites for more comprehensive Asian communications coverage within this year.

    In January, PanAmSat opened an office in Tokyo, mainly as a contact for Japanese broadcasters.

    Separately, Sony Electronics' Broadcast & Professional Co. introduced in the U.S. market the HDS-7100 high definition digital video switcher, which is billed as a flexible and affordable solution for high definition video production. "The HDS-7100 switcher was designed for production facilities creating, for example, longer form documentaries or sitcoms, and provides affordable entry into high definition post production while retaining the tools they've become accustomed to in SDTV (standard definition television) production," said Ron Naumann, marketing manager for production and post production products at Sony Electronics' Broadcast & Professional Co.

    (Neil Davis, Asia BizTech Correspondent)

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    Updated: Thu Jul 16 19:27:32 1998