Orion Express and Intelsat on the Fast Growing Russian Media Market

By Kirill Makhnovskiy, Telecommunications Services, Director, Orion Express and Peter Ostapiuk, Vice President, Media Product Management, Intelsat

Q1. What trends are driving content distribution in Russia at the moment?

A1. Kirill Maknovskiy, Orion Express: With over 300 channels and more than 40 million viewers, the Russian pay-TV market is the largest in Eastern Europe with tremendous growth potential. Until recently, the Russian pay-TV market was characterized by aggressive subscription pricing and constant ARPU reduction. However, that is changing as the largest Russian distributors are beginning to offer exciting, new global premium content. As a result, those same distributors are now experiencing a steady increase in demand for their services and more attractive business models.

As one of the largest media platforms in Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with more than 270 channels covering all of Russia, Orion Express is well positioned to capitalize on the increased demand for more premium content in Russia and abroad.

Q2. How long have Intelsat and Orion Express worked together?  What types of services are currently being offered?

A2. Peter Ostapiuk, Intelsat: Orion Express joined our fleet in late 2011. Initially, they used our satellite services on Intelsat 15 at 85˚ East to support their DTH services. Since then, Orion Express has expanded to our Horizons 2 satellite, which hosts a premier video neighborhood that supports approximately 170 SD and HD channels, reaching more than 2 million DTH subscribers and 20 million cable and IPTV subscribers. Intelsat 15 and Horizons 2 are collocated in order to serve the Russia and CIS media markets.

Kirill Majhnovskiy, Orion Express: Intelsat’s premier video neighborhood enabled us to attract top customers to the 85˚ East location, resulting in demand for increased capacity that Intelsat’s Horizons 2 is meeting today. For example, since joining Intelsat’s fleet, we have expanded our distribution services with Russian channels as well as for U.S. channels such as Discovery, Nickelodeon, MTV and Universal.

That being said, Orion Express provides more than just DTH distribution. Today, more than 40 percent of our revenue is derived from non-DTH services.

For example, by partnering with Intelsat, we deliver broadcasters a full end-to-end distribution solution that includes local licensing and media registration, regionalization of foreign content for Russian audiences, satellite capacity and uplink capabilities, inclusion in our DTH TV packages and distribution to cable networks.

Q3. How has the working relationship between Orion Express and Intelsat helped ensure that both companies are delivering the content that viewers are demanding?

A3. Peter Ostapiuk, Intelsat: We work very closely with our customers to understand their business and more importantly, their long-term growth strategy.   For example, we moved Horizons 2 to its current orbital location mainly to address Orion Express’ growth needs and demand for DTH and distribution services in Russia and surrounding regions.

As video viewership in Russia and the CIS is growing rapidly, the flexibility and reliability of our global fleet and premier video neighborhoods provide companies, such as Orion Express, with a strong foundation to expand their distribution platform and deliver high quality, regionalized content to viewers within and outside of Russia.

Kirill Makhnovskiy, Orion Express: Today, our customers want premium programming and access to content that is accessible and of a high quality. Intelsat provides us with reliable satellite services, access to premier video neighborhoods with the ability to deliver regionalized content that our customers want along with strong customer support and technical training.  As a result, we have been able to grow our DTH subscribers to more than 2 million and turn 85° E into one of the most popular positions in Russia and CIS. It is that high reliability of 85° East – with its two collocated satellites –  that will enable us to further expand our broadcast services and subscriber base.

Q4. As you look ahead, what opportunities/challenges do you see for the Russia/CIS media market?  How will the Intelsat/Orion Express partnership ensure that you continue to meet future customer demands?

A4. Kirill Makhnovskiy, Orion Express: We expect continued growth in the Russian Pay TV market and, longer-term, we are beginning to see additional services such as video-on-demand and digital TV (DTT) gaining traction with subscribers.

In terms of Pay TV, there are opportunities and challenges.  While the consulting firm, J’son & Partners is forecasting the market to grow to 40.9 million households in 2018, we do think the competition for that market is becoming more intense. As a result, we continue to provide superior customer service, offer more compelling and differentiated content and focus on the development of additional services. By doing so, Orion Express has already increased its subscriber’s base by 81% in 2013 (with the overall market growth of 13%). Further, by 2018, we expect to double our subscriber base up to 4 million.

Peter Ostapiuk, Intelsat: We believe that the two-satellite solution that we are currently providing Orion Express will provide them and the programmer community with the connectivity, reliability and redundancy  they need to deliver exciting content throughout all of Russia. In addition, the MCPC platforms by Orion Express will help bring new and exciting Western programming to their DTH platforms and cable distribution partners.

By partnering with Orion Express, we can help bring new subscribers to the platform and most importantly, deliver high quality content that entertains and informs the Russian viewer. In addition, Intelsat’s leading media satellite services will help Orion Express capture the burgeoning video-on-demand needs as well as transition to DTT services.

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