Stephan Heimbecher, Head of Innovations & Standards and Technology and Project Manager for the launch of Sky 3D in Germany, gives 3D Focus a guide to Germany's first 3D channel, which launched in October last year, including what content he is looking for.
3D Focus: How many hours does Sky 3D run for each day?
Stephan Heimbecher: The Sky 3D channel typically runs from 8 am until 11 pm. However, it is an event-based channel, which means we would deviate from that schedule in the case of live 3D events taking place outside of that time window.
3D Focus: Has Sky 3D Deutschland broadcast any programmes especially commissioned for the channel?
Stephan Heimbecher: At the end of 2010 we have produced a special 3D talk show with Kiefer Sutherland – named Sky Lounge 3D. In addition we have produced a number of live sports events in 3D, e.g. football (apart from the German football league “Bundesliga”) and ice hockey. Furthermore, there has been a documentary about the recent tour of “Die Fantastischen 4” (a popular German rap band) which was specially commissioned for Sky 3D.
3D Focus: Are you broadcasting content from the Sky 3D channel in the UK?
Stephan Heimbecher: The channel was launched with a 3D production from our Sky colleagues in the UK – the Ryder Cup. More recently we broadcasted a 3D live opera event, Lucretia Borgia, which had also been produced by BSkyB.
3D Focus: What would a typical days schedule include on Sky 3D Deutschland? Sports, movies, documentaries ? Could you provide example titles?
Stephan Heimbecher: Currently the daytime programming mainly consists of 3D trailers and promos. During prime time we schedule all sorts of 3D events from (live) sports, movies, documentaries and (live) entertainment. In addition to one “Bundesliga” (German football league) 3D broadcast per match day we have also covered DFB Pokal (German national football cup), Champions League and other sports such as golf, ice hockey and tennis (Wimbledon) in 3D. As part of the entertainment offer we have shown e.g. a 3D concert by Die Fantastischen 4 and the previously mentioned live opera. And in terms of 3D documentaries we have broadcasted programmes such as “7 Wonders of the Solar System” (History) or “The Eye” (NatGeo).
3D Focus: Sky 3D in the UK seems to be an important part of the Sky business going forward. How important is Sky 3D Deutschland to the Sky business in Germany?
Stephan Heimbecher: Sky is about the entertainment experience and Sky 3D plays an important role in that regard in addition to offering the largest variety of programming of live sports and breathtaking movies, the very best series and premieres – all in high definition – and a lot more.
Furthermore the offer of 3D TV emphasizes the power of innovation at Sky: As a driver behind digital television in Germany and Austria, Sky has repeatedly sparked development and implementation of new technologies and innovations in the past. Sky has been broadcasting exclusively in digital format since 2003. From the beginning, Sky has consistently utilized the advantages of digital television technology: Multi-feed broadcasts, pay-per-view, HD television and since last year the first 3D channel in Germany and Austria — these are just a few areas in which Sky has been on the cutting edge over the years.
3D Focus: How many subscribers does Sky Deutschland (not just Sky 3D) currently have?
Stephan Heimbecher: During the first quarter 2011 the subscriber base of Sky Deutschland continued its solid growth, increasing by 73,000 to a total of 2,726,000. Also, Sky HD continued its success as the number of customers able to watch Sky HD grew to 1,131,000. Customers with premium packages more than doubled to 664,000 compared to the same time last year.
3D Focus: How do people get Sky 3D? Is it a stand alone channel or a free channel bundled with a premium package?
Stephan Heimbecher: Sky 3D is available over satellite and in a few cable networks. It’s free of charge to all premium HD package subscribers. All other HD subscribers can see those 3D events free of charge which correspond to their subscription HD package, i.e. a Sky subscriber with the HD Movie package will get free access to all 3D movies on Sky 3D. Furthermore, there is the occasional PPV 3D offer via our Sky Select HD service. And for those that do not yet own a 3D TV there is always the opportunity to visit one of nearly 50 Sky 3D Sportsbars.
3D Focus: Take up of 3D services in general has been regarded as slow in the UK. What is the situation in Germany?
Stephan Heimbecher: We are quite happy with the take-up so far, but we are fully aware that this is just the beginning. The situation was almost identical many years back when we introduced HD services. Consumers are required to upgrade or even replace their equipment at home. You have to motivate them to do that which is why we have decided to launch the Sky 3D channel rather early. At the same time we cannot justify spending a lot of money on 3D programming as long as there is only a “handful” of potential viewers. So it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario, but that is typical for the introduction of new technologies such as 3D TV. We will overcome this in the same way as we accomplished the HD launch.
3D Focus: Do you have other 3D competitors?
Stephan Heimbecher: Sky 3D is the only 3D event channel broadcast in Germany which offers a variety of content from sports, movies, documentaries and entertainment. Deutsche Telekom also offers a few 3D movies on demand as well as Bundesliga as part of their T-Entertain IPTV service.
3D Focus: Are you actively seeking new 3D content and if so what genres?
Stephan Heimbecher: Absolutely, there is still a lack of good 3D content in this rather early phase of 3D television. There are quite a number of 3D producers in Germany as well as in other parts of Europe and the world. However, we want to make sure to only provide our subscribers with the best 3D content – both as regards content as well as technical quality. That means that we are currently still in the process of checking what is being offered.
3D Focus: Can you share numbers of how many people are watching Sky 3D Deutschland or what targets you have?
Stephan Heimbecher: Not yet, we will be more specific on Sky 3D subscription numbers at a later stage.
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