Viasat is the brand for the digital satellite TV platforms in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. Viasat – or Viasat Broadcasting – is also the largest business area within Modern Times Group.
Viasat as a satellite TV platform brand – with the concept of leasing out smart cards for the decoding of TV signals to households with a private parabolic dish – was launched in October 1991 in Scandinavia. Both TV3 and TV1000 had been utilising the new Astra 1A satellite, Europe’s first private satellite system, since it became operational in 1989. Jan Stenbeck and his Industriförvaltnings AB Kinnevik was one of the founders and the largest private shareholder in SES/Astra. The launch of the satellite TV platform Viasat coincided with the introduction of new secure encryption technology D2-MAC and Encryption M for the broadcasting of TV3 and TV1000. Equipment for private reception of satellite TV became more attractive. Prices – and the size of the dishes needed – decreased dramatically. Initially a Viasat subscriber would only have TV3 and TV1000 on his/her smart card. A number of international TV channels were available unencrypted on the same satellite position and the Viasat business saw strong expansion.
As more and more broadcasters introduced encryption Viasat started to add third party channels to its cards. Viasat also launched a number of new own channels, such as ZTV, Viasat Nature, Viasat Sport and a second TV1000 channel.
Analogue distribution via satellite was however costly compared to today’s digital distribution. Each channel needed one transponder (six channels can share a transponder when transmission is digital).
In May 2001 Viasat became the first European satellite TV broadcaster to switch off analogue transmission of its premium pay-TV channels following the successful transition to digital TV. The free-TV channels were to follow.
In September 2004 Viasat successfully implemented a new conditional access technology on its platform, VideoGuard from NDS, to render pirate pay-TV smart cards useless.
Viasat’s digital satellite TV platforms in the Nordic region broadcast a total of eight own free-TV channels and 22 own pay-TV channels as well as a wide range of local and international third party channel brands. Viasat Nordic introduced ViasatPlus (PVR, personal video recorder) in October 2005 and ViasatHD in January 2008.
The Viasat satellite TV platform in Finland was launched in October 1996.
The digital satellite platforms in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) were launched in September 2004 and broadcast a total of eight own free-TV channels and nine own pay-TV channels as well as a wide range of local and international third party channel brands.
The satellite TV platform Viasat Ukraine was launched in April 2008, as a joint venture with Strong Media Group, becoming the first licensed digital premium satellite operator in the country. Viasat Ukraine offers a wide range of Ukrainian, Russian and international third party channels, as well as Viasat’s six own branded pay-TV channels in the region. In February 2010 MTG announced it had signed an agreement to acquire a further 35% of Viastrong Holding AB from Strong Media Group. The acquisition was completed in June 2010 following approval from the regulatory authorities in Ukraine. MTG now owns 85% of Viastrong which, through Vision TV LCC, operates Viasat Ukraine.
Rebranding of the Viasat logotype started in Sweden on 1 February 2010, followed by Norway on 15 March, Denmark on 31 March, Estonia on 5 May, Lithuania on 10 May, Latvia on 5 July, Finland on 1 September and Ukraine on 6 September 2010.