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Free-to-air viewing uptake 'good news for advertisers, broadcasters'

Since the launch of digital terrestrial-TV broadcasting service in May, media investment firm Mindshare has witnessed a sharp increase in the viewing of free-to-air analogue and digital channels, which provides opportunities for both advertisers and new broadcasters.

Napaporn Jeatawattana, head of The Exchange, a trading strategy arm at Mindshare, yesterday said Thai audiences currently spent an average of five hours and 11 minutes a day watching such channels, an increase of 16 per cent from four hours and 29 minutes daily before the arrival of 24 digital-TV channels.

"This reflects plentiful opportunity for digital-TV business in the near future," she said.

Apart from the increased time spent watching digital TV, Nielsen (Thailand) also found that some 15 million people were already watching digital channels, translating into a 13-per-cent share of potential viewers in the roughly 22 million households in the Kingdom.

This trend is likely to follow the experience in Australia, where analogue television was switched off completely last year.

Adam Simon Marshall, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at Mindshare, said the case of the "digital terrestrial-TV revolution" in Australia, which has a population of some 23 million, suggested that after its full analogue-TV was switched off completely, the time spent watching digital channel had increased.

In addition to the popularity of digital-TV broadcasting service, he said that currently 94.5 per cent of the Australian audience watched commercial free-to-air TV every month, which meant there was still an uptrend in line with the increase of consumption of TV multiscreen content.

Australia

However, pay-TV service in Australia has witnessed a different experience, with pay-TV operators having lost 8 per cent of their customers in the two years since the launch of digital terrestrial-TV in the country, he added.

The executives from Mindshare shared their knowledge and information at the "Original Thinking Forum - the Screens Transformation" event, held to encourage 200 leading brands and advertisers to be more confident about spending money via digital-TV channels in Thailand.

However, opinion among leading digital-TV operators remained mixed.

Surin Krittiyaphongphun, executive vice president of Bangkok Entertainment Company - the operator of analogue Channel 3 - and executive at BEC Multimedia, the operator of the 3SD, 3HD and 3Family digital channels, said he still had questions about the return on investment.

His company is, therefore, waiting until audience figures reach a high enough level to justify content that can attract more viewers as well as advertisers.

"The readiness of audiences for digital-TV service and confidence among advertisers are both key," he stressed.

Ong-art Singlumpong, executive vice president of RS Channel 8, said the company believed that content was king, particularly in relation to first-run dramas, by utilising a blend of media, marketing and technology.

Vachara Vacharaphol, chief executive officer of Triple V Broadcast - the operator of Thairath TV - said the company was placing emphasis on branding and marketing strategy in the initial stage of digital-TV service, in order to educate the audience and boost confidence among local advertisers.

In line with this strategy, the company is also trying to persuade a huge audience base with royalty to the group's Thairath newspaper to watch its newly established digital-TV channel, he said.

Rathakorn Surbsuk, trading partner at GroupM, acknowledged that audiences were now paying less attention to certain TV channels following the change in the media landscape. The change has resulted from the arrival of 24 digital terrestrial-TV channels and the emergence of digital media, he said.


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