CASBAA Connections Q1 2011

Date: Jan 2011

Multichannel TV is enriching the global conversation with perspectives inconceivable 20 years ago

Happy birthday to us!

From humble beginnings, Asian pay TV gets set to roar into the digital era

Time flies. On May 28, CASBAA will be exactly 20 years old. What a remarkable ride it’s been for Asia's multichannel television industry. We‘ve gone from limited local television to much improved local TV and real-time global television; from a small core of pay-TV viewers to half a billion homes, driving an industry posting annual revenues in excess of US$30 billion.

We’ve gone from limited viewer choice to almost overwhelming choice. Inconceivable as Egypt’s story might seem in real-time today, the reporting of it in such a variety of voices simultaneously available to viewers also shows our industry‘s remarkable passage. Multichannel television is changing the global conversation, enriching it with a multiplicity of perspectives unimaginable 20 years ago.

The recent Middle East crisis reminds us just how far our industry has traveled since CASBAA‘s inception. It came in the wake of another momentous period in history, the end of the first Gulf War in January/February 1991, an event so dramatic and fast-paced (the world’s first “short form” war?) that newscaster CNN created an immediate mass audience for international news in Asia, especially in India.

In April 1990 the AsiaSat-1 satellite was launched and Asia’s first commercial satellite operator quickly signed up Star TV, MTV and the BBC, among others, as founding clients. The challenge: there were only a handful of cable operators (and not many dishes, come to that) to create a regional pay-TV market.

Thus CASBAA was born as an industry body focused on facilitating development of a sector that had a lot of growing to do. Now, 20 years after CASBAA‘s founding, Asia‘s pay-television market is poised to charge into digital overdrive – promising more and better mobile TV, HDTV, 3D TV, IPTV, new levels of interactivity, TV-video partnerships, and still unidentified opportunities, all of these in aid of growing ARPU and every piece in the value chain.

Every cable and satellite platform with a future is digitizing and developing value-added broadband and telecoms offerings along the way. In a similar vein, almost all telcos are working to offer video offerings to the same consumer. It‘s all part of CASBAA’s ever-evolving digital remit.

As a gentle start to our 20th birthday celebration, we’re throwing a small party on Monday, May 23rd in Singapore for Members and Friends. The party will double as curtain raiser for the CASBAA-supported Digital Matters Conference May 24-28. As we enter our third decade, igital Matters will be purposeful reminder of the CASBAA commitment to “Inform, Represent, Connect“.

In January Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva set the tone for CASBAA‘s Thailand in View” meeting in Bangkok. The PM, supported by Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot, put his full weight behind reform of the Thai broadcasting market, both the free-toair, advertising-supported DTH market and the traditional duel revenue-stream pay-TV model. Thailand‘s booming satellite TV and cable TV services are finally taking their rightful place at the top of the table.

But however successful the conference was, Thailand‘s licensing gridlock, commercial signal theft, under-reporting of subscriber numbers and worse practices were a reminder that a cloud will continue to hang over the pay-TV market until authorities commit to come down hard on lawbreakers.

It was a shocking indictment of the current regulatory regime that Nielsen’s David Sinthu Peat was able to point out at an industry event attended by the prime minister that Thailand‘s most popular movie channel is also the country’s most egregious pirate: the unlicensed DVD play-out channel Sun Movies.

And it was another reminder that CASBAA still has plenty of work to do in Thailand where IP violators aren’t even required to hide in the shadows. In Thailand, and in too many other countries in Asia.

Marcel Fenez

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