Limit on HD, SD channels sparks firms' concern
Competition for TV licences 'could overheat'
The companies planning to join the auction for commercial digital TV licences expressed concern yesterday over the recent change in the numbers of high-definition and standard-definition channels, as it could create intense competition in the bidding for some licences.
Surin Krittayaphongphun, vice president for marketing and sales at Bangkok Entertainment Co (BEC), the operator of Thai TV3, insisted that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission should not limit the number of licences. It should allow potential TV broadcasters to drive the digital industry and expand the viewer base.
However, Adisak Limprungpata-nakij of Nation Broadcasting Corp said the NBTC's resolution on limits on licences, particularly on holding licences in more than two TV categories, seemed to be more flexible and fair for all players.
"What we need to know is the final starting bid for the licences of each TV category," he said.
They were part of a focus-group meeting organised by the NBTC after its broadcasting committee approved the revision of the numbers of channels in various categories.
The total number of commercial digital TV channels was left at 24, but variety channels in high definition (HD) were increased to seven from four and news channels in standard definition (SD) to seven from five.
Variety SD channels were reduced from 10 to seven and children's channels from five to three.
Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the broadcasting panel, said those TV broadcasters that failed to win a licence to operate a children's channel could enter the "beauty contest" for public TV channels for kids' programmes.
After the test run of digital terrestrial TV broadcasting jointly conducted by the Army's TV5, MCOT's Modernine TV, the Public Relation Department's Channel 11 and Thai Public Broadcasting Service, the NBTC's technical team found that there was enough bandwidth available to increase the number of HD channels, he said.
High demand foreseen
After a public hearing with the industry, the watchdog anticipates high demand for the new licences from new and existing TV broadcasters.
The broadcasting committee also approved the limit on licences that a commercial TV broadcaster can hold. A holder of a variety HD licence cannot hold a news licence, while a news-licence holder cannot hold a variety HD licence. An operator can hold only one licence in a category.
By the end of this week, the panel will work on further details of the four categories, including definition, programming and scheduling.
Given these changes, the starting-bid ranges for all 24 licences might differ from the study conducted by Chulalongkorn University's economics faculty. The reserve price for a variety HD channel would drop by a large margin, while the reserve price for a variety SD licence could remain the same or decline. The reserve price for news might fall.
With fewer children's channels, the reserve price for this category might go up. Puntid Tosomsakul, programming manager for the broadcast business of Rose Media, the operator of the Gang Cartoon channel, said the company could face difficulties and intense competition after the number of children's channels was reduced. Rose Media hopes to enter the bidding for digital TV for kids' programming.
According to the Chulalongkorn study, the reference-price range for a variety SD channel is Bt702 million to Bt2.85 billion, for a news SD channel is Bt274 million to Bt2.35 billion, for a children's SD channel is Bt123 million to Bt2.02 billion and for a variety HD channel is Bt2.94 billion to Bt15.48 billion.