HD+ is a package of High Definition Digital Satellite TV channels for German-speaking viewers and (as HD PLUS GmbH) the company providing that package, based in Unterföhring near Munich, Germany. HD PLUS is a subsidiary company of SES based in Betzdorf, Luxembourg.
HD+ provides a broadcast platform from satellites at the Astra 19.2°E position, independent from TV operators, for channels outside of the established pay-TV networks, and requires a dedicated receiver or an HD+ Conditional Access Module and Smart Card. Since summer 2011, HD+ channels have also been available to Sky Deutschland subscribers. As of October 2012 there are 2.8 million active HD+ households in Germany.
The company grew out of SES Platform Services (then ASTRA Platform Services) and offers the technical management and the marketing of HD programmes for all broadcasters, including the distribution of the smart cards required for reception.
- Comedy Central HD
- DMAX HD
- Deluxe Music HD
- kabel eins HD
- N24 HD
- Nickelodeon HD
- ProSieben HD
- RTL HD
- RTL 2 HD
- Sat. 1 HD
- Sixx HD
- SPORT1 HD
- Super RTL HD
- Tele5 HD
- VOX HD
The HD+ service launched on November 1, 2009, with two channels, RTL HD and Vox HD; Sat.1 HD, ProSieben HD and kabel eins HD were added in January 2010. Other German free-to-air HD channels broadcasting from Astra 19.2°E such as Das Erste HD, Arte HD, and ZDF HD can also be received with the same receiver used for HD+ and also with any independent free-to-air HD receiver.
In the months leading up to the launch of HD+, it was reported that MTV and DSF – already broadcasting in HD from Astra 19.2°E – were in discussions to join the package. DSF HD (now called Sport1 HD) began test broadcasts in August 2010 and commenced a full service on the first anniversary of the launch of HD+, on November 1, 2010, becoming the first channel in the HD+ package from outside the RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 groups. As of May 2012, MTV has not joined HD+.
On December 1, 2010, German women's entertainment channel sixx (which, like kabel eins, ProSieben and Sat.1, is owned by ProSiebenSat.1 Media) launched a high definition service on the HD+ platform
In October 2010 it was announced that entertainment channel RTL2 would launch in high-definition in the HD+ package in early December and in June 2011, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon from MTV Networks joined the HD+ platform and it was announced that news channel, N24 would join HD+ from July, bringing the number of channels offered to 11.
Tele5 HD launched on HD+ in October 2011. On May 1, 2012, Super RTL launched a high definition version of the RTL/Disney owned channel on the HD+ platform alongside Discovery's DMAX channel. The 15th channel to join HD+ was adult pop music channel Deluxe Music, in December 2012.
Viewers buying an HD+ certified receiver also receive an HD+ smart card valid for 12 months' viewing of the HD+ package. At the end of the free viewing period, the validity of the card can be extended for a further year on payment of €50, either online or by phone from HD+, or in stores.
The decision to charge for access to the HD+ package, while promoting it as free TV, was met with some criticism within Germany. However, Ferdinand Kayser, then president and CEO of SES Astra, has denied that HD+ is pay-TV. "HD+ is free TV," he said in September 2009 at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin and compared the commercial arrangements to cable TV, in which access to free channels costs money. He said that the annual cost of HD+ is a service fee "which is related to the reception of the offer and not to specific content, parts or packages of the offer".
In April 2011, HD+ and Sky Deutschland announced agreement that all the HD+ channels would be available to Sky Deutschland subscribers from the summer, without an HD+ receiver or CAM. Sky subscribers with a standard Sky HD satellite receiver and smartcard will then be able to watch and record the eight HD+ channels, along with the 12 existing Sky HD channels and five free-to-air German HD channels (which also broadcast via Astra 19.2°E). The HD+ channels will be available to Sky subscribers for free for the first 12 months and then for an annual fee of €50.
In January 2013, HD+ launched the RePlay online catch-up TV service, offering full-length programmes up to seven days after their first DTH broadcast. RePlay is a hybrid service combining the satellite reception of the HD+ platform and an online connected service using the HbbTV standard. It requires an HbbTV-based hybrid HD+ set-top box with special software and a connection to the Internet (a broadband speed of at least 6 Mbps is recommended).
To use the RePlay service, a subscription fee of €15 per three months is payable after a three-month free trial period, on top of the normal €50 annual service fee.
Service uptake and criticism
Before HD+ launched, there was some criticism because of limitations it might impose on the use of the service. Some channels had already announced they were going to deny the viewer some regular functions by software, e.g. fast-forwarding during commercials or the ability to record broadcasts to watch at a later time. Some viewers even formed Anti-HD+ campaigns, trying to prevent HD+ becoming accepted.
However, in May 2011 – some 18 months after the launch of the service – SES announced that as of March 31, 2011, 769,000 households in Germany were receiving HD+ via satellite, that 827,000 HD+ receivers had been sold, and that of the 172,000 HD+ viewers who had purchased an HD+ device with an HD+ card between November 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010 (and who had therefore exceeded their free trial period) 114,000, or 66%, had renewed their HD+ service by paying the annual €50 fee. HD+ CEO, Wilfried Urner said that "In a country where the question of whether people are willing to pay for television has been discussed for more than 20 years, the first figures of HD+ are certainly remarkable. A conversion rate of 66 percent is clearly above the expectations".
By May 2012, the number of households receiving HD+ had more than trebled, to over 2.6 million, with about 2.1 million users utilizing the12-month free trial period, and over 500,000 paying the €50 annual service fee.
In October 2012, HD+ and SES announced that three years after the launch of the service, there were 2,800,631 households receiving the service, with 2,039,175 households in their initial 12-month free trial period and 761,456 households paying the HD+ annual fee (an increase of nearly 285% year-on-year), and that HD receivers (for HD+ and for Sky Deutschland HD) made up 50% of all satellite set-top boxes sold in Germany.
In February 2013, the number of households paying for the HD+ service exceeded 1 million for the first time, more than double the number 12 months before.