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True, CTH battle for TV top spot

True boosts package options after losing EPL to CTH

The battle for the Bt5-billion pay-TV market is heating up with the two major operators, TrueVisions and CTH, launching new strategies to woo more subscribers.

About 4.1 million households subscribed to cable-TV services last year, making up 20 per cent of the 22 million total households in Thailand, according to market research company Nielsen (Thailand).

TrueVisions, the current market leader, is turning its focus to the mass market, offering new affordable packages as a part of its key strategy to retain existing customers after losing the rights to broadcast English Premier League (EPL) football for the next three seasons.

CTH, formerly known as Cable Thai Holdings PLC, is spending over Bt200 million to introduce its new logo and brand image and a series of marketing campaigns throughout this year to build consumer confidence. CTH, the new national player, recently beat TrueVisions by snapping up the broadcasting rights of the EPL over the next three seasons.

The two major players held separate press events yesterday at Bangkok venues close to each other.

Apart from CTH, newcomers are eyeing a bigger share of this business, namely GMM Z and RS. This will intensify the fierce competition in the more-than Bt5.24-billion pay-TV market this year, according to the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA).

CASBAA is an industry-based advocacy group dedicated to the promotion of multi-channel TV via cable, satellite, broadband and wireless video networks across the Asia-Pacific region.

To emphasise this point, TrueVisions yesterday staged a mega-event, "Visions Ahead Magenta Night Party", to thank more than 1,000 business partners and other associates from around the world.

At the Bt20-million event, the company also launched two new packages: Super Knowledge, with 116 channels at Bt590 per month, and Super Sport with 95 channels at Bt495 per month.

Anat Mekpaiboonvatana, managing director of TrueVisions, said both packages would be gap-fillers, placed between the premium Platinum and Gold packages and the low-end Knowledge package. The Premium package price starts at Bt1,568 per month while the Knowledge package goes for Bt299 per month.

TrueVisions expected to lure a total of more than 100,000 new subscribers to each of the new packages.

"TrueVisions is always the king of content, namely movies, sports, knowledge and variety entertainment," Anat said.

Apart from quality contents, True Visions says that its competitive strength also comes from package, high-definition (HD) technology, service and special privileges.

Ong-ard Prapakamol, chief commercial officer of TrueVisions, said that in the second half of this year, the company allocated an extra marketing budget of Bt200 million on top of the regular marketing budget of Bt400 million. This extra budget will be used for marketing activities and promotions to attract new customers and to retain existing subscribers after the current season of the EPL comes to an end this month.

The company estimates its churn rate - a measure of subscriber loss - will see just a single-digit drop after the loss of the EPL. Currently, TrueVisions has about 2 million viewers. Of those, 800,000 are pay-subscribers and the remainder are free viewers.

CTH yesterday unveiled its new logo as part of its plan to create digital broadband services and related services such as home-shopping, market research and data services via its platform within the next two years. After that, the company plans to expanding its fibre-optic infrastructure network across the country, a project that should be completed in three years.

The advanced fibre-optic cable network will allow cable-TV operators to offer a wide range of services through cable lines, including Web-based services such as Internet protocol television (iPTV) on top of improved-definition programmes.

Under this development, the company aimed to generate Bt100 billion in revenue within the next two years, Kittsanan Ngampathipong, CTH chief executive officer, said yesterday

On June 21, CTH will launch its full service, providing 140 channels including 34 high-definition (HD) channels, to allow customers to watch 380 live EPL soccer matches during the new season.

"I believe that the content that CTH has on hand is the best choice for our target audience," the CEO said.

The services will be available via its 170 local cable-TV operators. In three years, the company expects to have 7 million subscribers, compared to 2.5 million this year.

Kittsanan added that his company would spend more than Bt200 million on marketing campaigns to promote its brand and packages.

The company is also investing more than Bt300 million in five studios for in-house TV production and broadcasting.

CTH became one of the country's major cable-TV operators after Wichai Thongtang, a former lawyer of ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, acquired a stake in the company in partnership with a Thai Rath executive.

Of CTH's shares, 30 per cent are owned by local cable TV operators, 25 per cent are Wichai's and 25 per cent are held by Vachara Vacharaphol, CEO of Trend VG3, a subsidiary of the company that publishes the Thai Rath daily newspaper. CTH said it welcomes new investors to hold the remaining stakes.

CTH secured audio and visual broadcasting rights of the EPL for territory in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos for three seasons from this year. This is considered "killer" sports content.


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