History of rapid growth and the move into digital
SES was formed on the initiative and support of the Luxembourg
Government in 1985 as Société Européenne des Satellites (SES). The
Luxembourg State remains a major shareholder. As Europe's first private
satellite operator, SES launched ASTRA 1A, its first satellite, in 1988.
ASTRA 1A entered service at the orbital position 19.2° East in 1989.
Rupert Murdoch's SKY TV, along with German broadcasters Pro7, Sat. 1,
and RTL were among ASTRA's first major customers.
In 1990, ASTRA was already broadcasting to 14 million cable and directto-
home (DTH) viewers. SES ASTRA was the pioneer of 'co-location' by
which several satellites share the same orbital position. This had never
been done before, so that SES had to develop its own software and
technology to control and manage multiple satellites within close proximity
to each other. Co-location generated the capacity that attracted dozens of
channels to a single orbital location, creating what became known as the
'satellite neighborhood' concept that would drive SES growth for the next
two decades and be copied by rivals like Eutelsat. A greater selection of
channels at one orbital position attracts viewers to point their dishes at
that slot, which in turn attracts more broadcasters and hence more
viewers. ASTRA's prime slots, such as 19.2 east, have seen as many as
eight satellites sharing the same position at one time. Co-location also
helped build up ASTRA's reputation for outstanding reliability based on the
strength in depth of its fleet. Today, SES boasts network availability levels
of 99.999%. Till 2005 SES has become fully digital.
The acquisition of a 34.1% stake in AsiaSat in 1998 began a period of
ambitious global expansion beyond SES' European home market that
would lead to the formation of SES GLOBAL in 2001, renamed SES in
2006.This geographic expansion went hand in hand with the diversification
of SES' product offering into a range of satellite services, including
technical consultancy, satellite reception and distribution services,
government and military communications and more recently a range of
mobile and multimedia and internet services, such as IP-PRIME in the U.S.
and ASTRA2Connect in Europe.
In 2000, SES acquired a 50% stake in the Scandinavian satellite
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broadcaster Nordic Satellite AB (NSAB), later renamed SES SIRIUS, which
strengthened SES' coverage in northern and Eastern Europe. In 2001, SES
completed the acquisition of GE AMERICOM resulting in the formation of
SES GLOBAL comprising two operating companies, SES ASTRA and SES
AMERICOM. Altogether, SES now operated a fleet of 41 satellites, the
largest in the world at the time.
Further acquisitions followed in 2006 and included New Skies, later
renamed SES NEW SKIES, which added six satellites to the SES fleet and
strengthened its coverage in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. SES also
took a 100% stake in ND SatCom a German provider of government
services. In December 2006, SES GLOBAL was renamed SES.
In March 2007, SES bought back all of GE's shares and participations in
AMERICOM as part of a complex divestiture transaction agreement. As
part of the deal, SES divested certain assets, including AsiaSat as well Star
One, SATLYNX and a spacecraft over the Pacific Ocean. GE is obligated to
hold the spacecraft asset until 2012.
SES ASTRA grew its stake in SES SIRIUS to 90% in 2008. In June 2008,
SES ASTRA and competitor Eutelsat set up the joint venture Solaris
Mobile. Solaris Mobile will deliver media services to mobile and handheld
devices via a satellite to be launched in 2009. In July 2008, SES
announced the merger of its two in00000ternational operating units, SES
AMERICOM and SES NEW SKIES into a 'new segment' under Rob Bednarek
as President and CEO. As the organizations consolidated, the IP-PRIME
service, an IPTV service, was shut down completely. The new segment was
re-branded as SES WORLD SKIES on 7 September 2009.
Through its operating companies and participations, SES provides satellite
transmission capacity and related services to media broadcasters,
businesses as well for civil government and military communications. SES
satellites transmit a variety of formats from radio to High Definition TV,
(HDTV) in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. SES has been a major player in the
development of the direct-to-home market in Europe and the IPTV
market in the U.S. In Europe, SES ASTRA pioneered the introduction of
HDTV and has been instrumental in defining HDTV standards with the HD
ready label. In the U.S., SES AMERICOM provides cable-feed services as
well as IP-PRIME, an MPEG-4 based IPTV platform that allows users to
access TV services, including HDTV channels, via the internet.