The move towards the new compression standard continues as Starz Entertainment invests in a four-channel, HD MPEG-4/AVC encoding system from cable-equipment manufacturer Motorola.
The premium programmer has become the latest cable network to adopt MPEG-4 compression to conserve satellite bandwidth as it expands its HD offerings.
The Motorola system – already being used for Starz’s existing HD channels Starz E, Starz Kids and Family HD, Starz Edge HD and Starz Comedy HD – compresses, encrypts, modulates and receives HD signals within a single integrated transmission system.
The new transmission system also includes DVB-S2 satellite modulation gear, which can increase a satellite transponder’s output by up to 50 per cent.
Starz said upcoming HD channel Encore HD will also be launched using MPEG-4.
Ray Milius, senior vice president of programming operations and information technology for Starz, said a key selling point for the Motorola MPEG-4 system was its development of an integrated receiver/decoder for affiliates, the DSR-6050.
This is able to receive the MPEG-4 signals and then transcode them to MPEG-2 compression for delivery to existing digital cable set-top boxes.
The importance of such backward-compatible receivers was mentioned by HBO when it selected Motorola last year for its conversion to MPEG-4 delivery for all of its networks.
“Motorola’s highly efficient MPEG-4 encoding system allows us to seamlessly migrate from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 with the video quality that we require while conserving satellite bandwidth to deliver diverse additional HD content for our customers,” said Milius.
He said MPEG-4 was “all about how much can we squeeze out of the satellite”, a necessity as the network was running out of capacity on its [VOD] pitching distribution.
HBO was the first programmer to announce plans to adopt MPEG-4 for most of its planned HD feeds.
By the end of June, the programmer will offer all 26 channels in MPEG-4, although it will retain the primary HBO and Cinemax feeds in MPEG-2.

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