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In Buying Satellite Transmission Time, Using a Broker Might Leave You Richer.

Do you know that for an hour of C-band satellite time one could pay $200 or $1100 or virtually any sum in between? Did you know that Western Union ran a "sale" on transponder time? Do you know that some transponders on Satcom 3R cannot deliver a signal into Hawaii, while others on the same satellite can?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, then perhaps you should consider using a transponder broker the next time you need to transmit a TV broadcast or videoconference.

Usually for less money than it would cost to do the job yourself, a transponder broker can arrange your satellite transmission from end to end. Uplinks, downlinks, microwave interconnects, video-projection systems, time on the satellite: all these selections and more are listed on the extensive menus offered by many transponder brokers today. Or, if all you need is transponder time, you can order it a la carte, and chances are that the transponder broker can get it for you at a "blue-plate special" price.

As the satellite industry has matured, it has grown increasingly complex and competitive. Whereas once, RCA and Western Union more or less controlled the entire transponder supply, today, satellite time is available from an array of satellite carriers and resale carriers, as well as from other entities, such as nonprofit religious organizatioins, broadcasters and cable TV networks, banks, educational institutions, oil companies, telephone companies, and others. Finding out who has excess time to sell and matching the seller with an appropriate buyer is the work of a transponder broker.

Or part of it. A transponder broker also keeps track of the regulatory environment--in particular, the filing of amended tariffs by the various satellite carriers. Because of the highly competitive nature of today's satellite environment, the carriers sometimes file new tariffs with the Federal Communications Commission. These amended tariffs may include lower prices or different purchase terms, both of which can benefit the knowledgeable broker's clients.

The increase in transponder supply has been accompanied by an increase in demand. More and more companies are using satellite videoconferences to replace travel and to support corporate accounting, personnel training, marketing and public relations functions. Religious evangelists are using satellites to carry their messages and fund-raising appeals simultaneously to hundreds of locations throughout the world. Television news and sports producers are scrambling to keep pace with the public's heightened expectations for global live coverage.

Whether a user seeks a full-time satellite transponder or merely some ad hoc or occasional time, a satellite broker can serve as a guide through the confusing and often chaotic transponder marketplace. Listed below are the major advantages to using a broker rather than doing it yourself:

* Access to Information--It is the broker's business to know the satellite marketplace inside out. This includes knowing who has transponders, uplinks, downlinks and microwave facilities and services, and at what price. In addition, the broker must know the ins and outs of satellite transmission, including which transponders on which satellites can best transmit to a given location, which frequency band should be used for a particular transmission, and how to obtain permission to transmit internationally. A broker can provide you with a wealth of knowledge, and indeed can serve as a "free" consultant.

* Efficiency--Not only can a broker be a virtual clearinghouse of information, but he or she can also provide one-stop-shopping convenience by arranging for all elements of a transmission. Thus, a single call often can serve the dual purpose of providing all the information you require and arranging for the end-to-end transmission of your signal.

* Best Price--A good broker does price-comparison shopping for you. In many cases, he or she will know of particular transponders or certain occasional time that's available from a source not generally known. There are some nonprofit organizations, for example, that lease transponders full time but use them part time; the unused time is often deeply discounted.

Also, every so often certain carriers offer transponder time at lower rates for limited periods of time--"sales," in effect. A good broker monitors the amended tariffs filed by such carriers as Western Union, RCA, GTE, AT&T, SBS and others. Finally, by aggregating many users and purchasing satellite time in bulk, a broker obtains a sizable discount from the carrier. This discount is passed along, at least in part, to the end users, who thus obtain the satellite time for a lower price than had each gone directly to the carrier to purchase their own, small amounts of time. In other words, even a customer who needs only 10 hours of satellite time a year can take advantage of the discount price.

* Objectivity--RCA or Western Union or any of the other carriers cannot be objective. After all, they're in business to sell their own product. It's quite unlikely that any would refer you to a competitor for a better buy. A broker, however, usually doesn't have a vested interest in any one satellite transponder, facility or service. A broker is concerned only with ensuring that the customer's transmission gets to its destination in the most-efficient and economical manner.

* Centralization--By arranging for all elements related to the transmission, a broker serves as a single, central point of coordination. Thus, should there be any last-minute changes or problems during the transmission, there'll be no need to spend time tracking down who's responsible for what.

The satellite industry's recent and rapid growth in size and complexity has spurred a demand for intermediaries that keep abreast of this fast-paced business and facilitate satellite communications by creating a favorable environment for buyer and seller alike. Pioneering satellite resalers such as Wold Communications and Hughes Television Network have been joined by several other companies, including EFC Satellite Services, Netcom, VideoStar Connections and Sat-Time.

Considerations in Selecting a Satellite Broker

In selecting a company to arrange for your satellite transmission, it's important to keep several points in mind. First, not all brokers or resale carriers handle end-to-end transmission requirements; some are in business only to resell satellite time. Second, some firms are not truly brokers; they have an ownership interest in a particualr satellite, uplink, downlink or service. This can work to your advantage in that you might be able to negotiate a special deal. However, it can be to your disadvantage if the broker is trying to steer you to one source rather than looking at many sources to obtain the best deal.

Check your broker for reliability and dependability. How long has the firm been in business? Who are some clients of the firm? Also, a broker should be accessible to you, even during non-business hours, should problems arise.

To provide optimum service, a broker will need to know certain information about your transmission. When calling a broker, be prepared to answer the following questions:

What is the date and time of the transmission, and is this flexible? Sometimes, especially during major events, satellite time is difficult to obtain, and its price varies by time of day.

Who is the intended audience and where are they? The footprints of satellites vary based on their position in the orbital arc, so certain areas are best serviced by certaiin satellites.

What is the nature of the transmission? If it's a television broadcast, it should be on a satellite that most TV stations already receive signals from. Likewise, if it's a cable program, it should be on one of the major cable birds, such as Satcom 3R.

Does the signal have to be encrypted? Is its content private?

Where is the signal originating from? The satellite and transponder used must be able to receive signals from the originating uplink.

What is the content of the transmission? If, for instance, the content could be considered "racy" in nature, it could no be transmitted using spare transponder time belonging to the Christian Broadcasting Network, The Baptist Sunday School Board, or other such organizations. Likewise, advertiser-supported programming cannot be transmitted on transponders belonging to certain owners or lessors.

Is this a one-time-only feed or is it a recurring transmission? If it's a recurring one, ideally it should be transmitted on the same satellite transponder each time to facilitate preparations at the receiving locations.

What is the budget?

Is there any reason why the programming could not be incorporated into an existing network? Some satellite cable TV networks lease time to outside programmers. These include the Learning Channel, USA Network and the Satellite Program Network. Programmers with daily, weekly or even monthly transmissions whose feeds are intended for large audiences scattered throughout the United States can be well served by this option.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Leone, G.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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