Ethiosat and SES officials celebrate the launch of the Ethiosat platform on SES’s NSS-12 satellite at 57 degrees east. Credit: SES

PARIS — SES and Ethiopia’s two broadcasting groups said they had started a dedicated Ethiopian television platform using SES’s NSS-12 satellite at 57 degrees East but left unanswered the question of who’ll pay to repoint the antennas of several million customers now using Eutelsat capacity at 7/8 degrees West.

The Association of Ethiopian Broadcasters (AEB) and the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp. (EBC), confirming an announcement in July, said they had begun loading programming onto the SES service.

These same broadcasters had signed a multi-year, multi-transponder contract with Eutelsat in February, and Eutelsat at the time said there was no change to the contract:

SES said the broadcasters would simulcast on both the Eutelsat and SES positions while migrating customers from one to the other.

In response to the joint SES/AEB/EBC announcement Oct. 3, Eutelsat reaffirmed that its Ethiopian business remains intact, with the contracts in force.

The creation of Ethiosat, more than 30 Ethiopian-audience-only channels, 12 of which in HD format, fulfills an Ethiopian ambition of having an audience that looks only at Ethiopian broadcasting. That was not true with Eutelsat’s 7/8 degrees West slot, which is home to multiple North African and Middle Eastern broadcasts beamed to an audience of 56 million viewers.

In an Oct. 3 statement on the creation of Ethiosat, AEB Chairman Amman Fissehazion gave a fuller explanation for why the switch was made.

“Up until now, the majority of Ethiopia’s content has been broadcast from an orbital position that also supplies content to Middle Eastern and North African countries, which explains the often confusing mix of content,” Fissehazion said.

“By migrating the most popular Ethiopian TV channels to a new location on SES’s satellite, we’ve created an Ethiopian-only TV offering that also devlivers a variety of channels in HD, a first in Ethiopia.”

He said Ethiosat intended to grow is channel count to include both local and relevant international content in the future.

“[C]onsolidating all Ethiopian TV channels and broadcasting them from one orbital position will fuel growth in the Ethiopian media sector, as local networks will now be able to easily expand their audience reach. This will foster healthy and growing advertising markets, which will result in a greater variety of content and more localized content.”

To sweeten the deal with the Ethiopian broadcasters, SES is providing more than just a satellite platform.

SES Video Chief Executive Ferdinand Kayser said it is “providing on-the-ground services to ensure the success of Ethiosat, which includes training local installers to correctly repoint the satellite dishes of each TV household to ensure a seamless migration.”

SES, citing contract confidentiality, declined to comment on who was financing the repointing of the customer dish antennas.