<b>No holds barred for PayTV</b>
TV has had a terrifi c year of growth in Thailand. From just 15 per cent penetration in 2007, cable and satellite TV is now beaming into close to 50 per cent of homes. If conditions remain buoyant, analysts estimate satellite TV penetration rates could reach more than 90 per cent within the next fi ve years.
As the sector grows, so does expectations. True Visions, market leader in the satellite and cable market, is aiming for more than 2 million subscribers by end 2011, up from 1.7 million last year. Of this 1.5 million are TV subscribers; the remainder are linked to the group’s bundled services including mobile phone and broadband internet. The company has set its revenue target at 10 billion baht (US$3.2 billion) for this year alone.
“We are also considering providing prepaid payTV services with appropriate station offerings,” True Corporation President and Chief Executive, Supachai Chearavanont, told local media.
True Corporation’s ultimate goal is to capture 10 per cent of the traditional broadcast TV advertising revenue, worth an estimated 60 billion baht (US$2.1 billion) a year. Its growth is set to be driven by a slate of new HD channels. To spur this, Chearavanont added that True is planning to replace all HD-receiving set-top boxes for the company’s 400,000 premium subscribers free of charge. This switch is expected to amount to 2 billion baht (US$69 million) over the next two years.
New competitor, entertainment company GMM Grammy, made its debut in the cable and satellite market in September through subsidiary 1 Sky Multimedia. GMM joined with fi ve local satellite dish manufacturers and traders to sell its 1-Sky platform satellite channels. GMM Broadcasting is offering channels for producers to broadcast free of charge to about half of the viewers with access to the satellite-TV content by way of C-Band. The 1 Sky satellite service comprises of the fi rst10 channels prepared for free TV, the next 11 to 29 slots for movie channels, 30 to 49 slots for variety shows, 20 channels for news and updates and the remainder selected for special content.
GMM Broadcasting managing director Dew Waratangtagoon, said the company anticipates 1.5 million of 1 Sky set-top boxes being sold in the fi rst year with revenues targeted at 2.5 billion baht (US$86 million). Grammy is offering set-top box models at special rates, allowing subscribers access to pay-per-view services as well free to air channels from just 1,500 baht (US$75) a month.
Vilasinee Chivanond, managing director of 1 Sky Multimedia, says initial forecasts will see it with more than 334,000 subscribers by end 2012, rising to 459,000 in 2013 and 584,000 in 2014.
Grammy’s entrance into the satellite market comes as MCOT, formerly the Mass Communications Organization of Thailand, launched a broadband TV network in February this year, with hope of more than 100,000 viewers by end of 2011. MCOT, together with telecoms systems provider Playwork Co., have invested some 500 million baht (US$17.2 million) in technology and acquisition of content. Known as Ving Broadband TV, it marks a new step into wireless broadband subscription TV in Thailand.
Nielsen Media Research data, using established TV tracking, shows little variation in the traditional pattern of market dominance in the free to air TV segment over the past year. Bangkok Broadcasting TV (BBTV) Channel 7 maintained its dominance through 2010-2011 (See Table) followed by BEC World’s Channel 3 – both claiming the lion’s share of the market. But BEC’s World’s Vice President, Chatchai Thaimtong says the company feels Nielsen’s data is failing to fully account for viewers watching Free- To-Air channels via cable or satellite set top boxes. “We think the number is being distorted and it is basically out of fashion, especially now that satellite penetration is almost half the (viewer) population,” he said.
Thaimtong added that new survey methods are needed to compensate for the shortfall in ratings across the 21.4 million households that have access to cable or satellite TV.
Other fears have grown over government interference in Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) and the siding of private content contractors working for state-owned NBT TV.
Thai PBS was set up in 2008 under special legislation to replace the former iTV, which had been under the control of former Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra’s Shin Corp. Thaksin supports the governing Pheu Thai Party led by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Now Pheu Thai-led government says the party’s legal team was drafting amendments to transform Thai PBS into a private organization or government-run TV station.
The newly established National Broadcasting Commission of Thailand’s media master plans and allocation of broadcasting licenses is set to result in dramatic shifts in market segmentation. This liberalization is expected to not only pay dividends for traditional television players but also paves the way for more broadband delivered content and mobile TV operators.