After a successful trial period of Germany's new satellite HD service HD+, SES Astra has announced that its service has been officially established. As of the 31st March 2011, 769,000 households in Germany have availed of the HD+ service via satellite, with 66% of customers who bought the service before March 21st 2010 renewing their HD+ service, bringing the total HD+ receivers sold to around 827,000.
HD+ claims to be a free TV service, currently offering 8 HD channels - Kabel 1 HD, Pro7 HD, RTL HD, RTL2 HD, Sat.1 HD, Sixx HD, Sport1 HD and Vox HD. A HD+ receiver comes with one year of free access. For continued access, the customers must pay a service fee of â‚¬50 per year or purchase another HD+ card for â‚¬55, which lasts a year.
To avail of the service, the customer needs to have a HD+ certified receiver or a HD receiver with a CI+ or CI 2.0 CI slot and a Nagravision CAM. HD receivers with a CI slot require a firmware update to enforce broadcast recording restrictions (i.e. imitate a CI+ CAM's content protection) as well as a HD+ CAM. Sky Deutschland subscribers can also avail of the HD+ channels.
In the past, I remember when I got my first digital satellite receiver, I was surprised at all the German free-to-air channels that I could pick up on Astra 19.2E, where as there was very little free-to-air in English on Astra 28.2E worth watching. Now, it looks like it's going the other way around, where the majority of free channels in the UK can be picked up with a basic FTA receiver.
While standard definition free-to-air channels look to remain FTA in Germany, the switch over to HD is not looking good with customers in Germany being forced to buy new equipment and pay an annual service fee for what is suppose to be free HD channels. While the UK has already launched its Freesat HD channels, at least these can be picked up with a basic free-to-air HD satellite receiver and the only annual fee being the existing TV license fee.
Further information in the SES Astra Press Release and on Wikipedia.