New Channels and Services
Hamid Ouddane, Electronic
Program Guide leader at Orbit's Broadcast Operations & Technology department in
Rome, thinks the world of Orbit's new STBs and heralds a "new era" of interactive
In recent press releases,
Orbit Television & Radio Network, one of the main players in the Pay TV arena
in the Middle East & North Africa, announced the start of a new era of programming,
with new channels and interactive services to come that will enhance the viewing
experience and give more control over the what-to-watch question.
This comes as a logical
continuation of the successful deployment of Orbit's new generation of Set Top
Boxes* (decoders), and the switch to the widely adopted broadcasting standard
DVB** or Digital Video Broadcasting. Even though Orbit has transmitted in digital
quality since its inception, the move to DVB will allow the platform access to
a larger market of hardware manufacturers since DVB is an international standard
that has become the de facto industry standard. It will also offer a better
image and sound quality as it is based on a more advanced technology than the
one used in the past.
On the other side, the
new Set Top Box allows for interactivity with the viewer. Dedicated services will
receive input from the viewer via different means, such as the remote control,
interpret his commands, and provide him with the desired information. And yet
again, Orbit is taking advantage of its new decoder, since it stands to benefit
from a bigger choice amid the offers in the fast growing market of interactive
The Electronic Program
Guide (EPG) is one of these new services, with a set of interactive applications
providing very powerful means to browse the myriad programs Orbit is offering.
Through one of them, the viewer can access instant information on the program
being aired at the time as well as the following one. Program information varies
from start time and duration to a detailed description of content. The application
keeps the viewer tuned to the channel being watched while consulting other channel
programming. This is made possible by an on-screen layer on which information
is displayed while video continues to play on the background layer.
For a wider time-scale,
the user would launch the EPG application, which gives him a global 7-day view
of the programming on all the network's channels. The viewer can browse through
a 7-day calendar starting with the current day. Not only does it help the viewer
decide which movie to watch the following evening, or look forward to next weekend's
football match, but it notifies him when the program is about to start, thanks
to a program-specific reminder that the viewer sets just as he would an alarm
The Mosaic application
reinforces this trend and consists of video feeds from a number of video channels
simultaneously presented in a grid along with the audio feed of the selected channel.
Changing the selection from one channel to another will set the audio to the newly
selected channel. Additionally, the viewer can decide to watch the selected channel
and tune to it by pressing a button on the remote control. Not only is there a
Mosaic application to help the viewer watch his preferred programs but another
Mosaic application helps him listen to his favorite music. This works in the same
way as the first, with no video (yes, it's a radio!).
Pay Per View is another
of Orbit's new services, packaged and branded as "TV Max"***. It allows the viewer
to purchase access to pre-scheduled premium programming, such as exclusive sport
events, and big-hit just-released movies. A press release indicated that one way
to access "TV Max" would be from the decoder's remote control.
Orbit has announced other
soon-to-come interactive applications. Electronic games are on the agenda as well
but further details, such as the kind of gaming experience they will provide,
are yet to be disclosed.
With a state-of-the-art
Set Top Box, the adoption of an international standard such as DVB, and a set
of viewer-centric interactive applications, Orbit has definitely repositioned
itself on the Pay TV scene, and is playing a leading role in driving market trends.
* A Set Top Box (STB)
is a hardware device for receiving transmitted signals and converting these to
a standard type of frequency for display on a standard analog TV set. Commonly
called decoders, they represent a central piece in the Digital TV architecture
by deciphering the broadcast and providing a place to run interactive applications.
** "The DVB (Digital Video
Broadcasting Project) is an industry-led consortium of over 300 broadcasters,
manufacturers, network operators, software developers, regulatory bodies and others
in over 35 countries committed to designing global standards for the delivery
of digital television and data services", from the www.dvb.org
*** More information on
"TV Max" can be found at:
www.orbit.net/TV Max/TV Max.htm
Hamid Ouddane has more
than six years of experience in the Digital TV industry and is TBS Internet Technologies