Video services

MSOs Downplay Rogue Bird Trouble

While acknowledging that Intelsat Ltd. 's wayward Galaxy-15 satellite could disrupt programming delivered by another satellite that cable operators rely on to distribute programming to subscribers, most MSOs insist that the impact on customers will be minimal.

Engineers began scrambling after the Galaxy-15 bird, which operates at 133 degrees west longitude, began drifting eastward, threatening to disrupt programming delivered by SES World Skies's AMC-11 satellite. AMC-11 delivers programming from dozens of cable programmers, including networks owned by MTV Networks, Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), Comcast Networks Group, In Demand LLC , Scripps Networks, and A&E Television Networks.

SES stressed in a statement that there’s no chance of the Galaxy-15 and AMC-11 birds colliding, but acknowledged that there is a possibility of “multi-path interference caused by Galaxy-15 relaying off axis emissions from AMC-11 uplink antennas.” In plain English that means the birds grow increasingly prone to interference the closer they are to each other.

Looking to minimize disruptions, SES said it will make slight adjustments in the orbital locations of AMC-11, beginning May 23, in addition to temporarily transferring some traffic from AMC-11 to a spare satellite. The maneuvers will be complete by June 7, the company said.

SES said it will also adjust the sensitivity of AMC-11, making it better able to relay programming that's uplinked from ground stations. The company said it expects that the maneuvers will “minimize any interference to the vast majority of cable systems and more importantly will not require significant changes to ground receive equipment at cable operators’ facilities.”

The satellite company’s cable operator customers also say that they expect the wayward satellite won’t have a big impact on their operations.

“There’s no impact right now. We’re in close contact with our programming partners and the satellite companies as they work to minimize any potential impact as G-15 gets closer to AMC-11,” Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said in an email to Light Reading Cable.

Charter Communications Inc. wasn’t as bullish in its statement about the satellite issue. “We acknowledge that due to the unpredictable nature of the errant satellite, we may experience some intermittent tiling and picture freezing," MSO spokeswoman Anita Lamont said. "We will do our best to minimize any interruptions and will implement contingency plans to provide TV signals from alternate sources if signal quality issues arise."

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), in a blog post, said it is monitoring the situation, and, without offering details, said it has a series of solutions to avoid disruptions in its video service. “Our goal is to minimize customer impact,” the company said.

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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