Lessons from the rise and fall of CTH

opinion July 23, 2016 01:00

By The Nation

4,836 Viewed

Questionable vision, sloppy service land the cable-TV operator flat on the floor



Anyone who’s ever visited the headquarters of cable TV and Internet provider CTH has probably wondered how it earns its multiple billions in revenues. Customer reception is dismal, with none of the queue-number machines, electronic signs or mechanical voices one might expect at such a business. The cashiers are courteous, but even on a good day there are no more than two to deal with the clots of clients. Usually there’s just one person in the gloomy little room, dealing with grumpy visitors and answering angry phone calls.
Call CTH “Exhibit A” in the case for how not to run a big business. The termination of its status as Thailand’s sole broadcaster of English Premier League football can then be seen as the judgement, bringing the curtain down on a much-criticised cable-TV operation that started with a bang just a few years ago. Controversy, much of it related to customer complaints, has hounded CTH since its birth, and today it appears to be gasping its last breath.
The company’s first and biggest mistake was putting all of its eggs into one English Premier League basket. When its licence to broadcast the matches expired and it was financially unable to renew it, its raison d’etre came to an abrupt end. Its content unrelated to football was typically second rate, sometimes duplicating what appeared on other cable channels. Few subscribers watched anything on CTH except football, so when the Premier League’s most recent season wrapped up, the cancellations predictably came pouring in.
The second mistake at CTH was being wholly unprepared when it won the football-telecast licence three years ago. Installation of the required home receivers became a nightmare for eager sports fans, especially when left to deal with sub-contractors of dubious repute. The payment system and promotional packages were confusing, a problem only compounded by the company’s poorly managed operations. Anguish flooded online chat rooms, but CTH proved fundamentally incapable of responding, leading to substantial losses in both income and customer confidence.
The third mistake was an over-reliance on the “leverage” that Premier League football was perceived to offer. The founding principle at CTH seems to have been “Get the matches out there and everything else will follow.” Little thought was actually given to the rest of its content, and yet, just a few days ago, a top executive surmised, unconvincingly, that CTH had at least developed a significant business profile conducive to lucrative opportunities in the future.
Questionable executive vision, poor management and deteriorating customer trust combined to bring CTH to its knees. 
Thailand’s love affair with English football has led to quite a few business moves that haven’t panned out, including the debacle at CTH. Its surprise appearance on the scene prompted football-mad subscribers of True Visions, the dominant (but much-denigrated) cable-TV operator, to grit their teeth and pay several hundred baht more per month.
With CTH moving quickly out of the picture, all eyes will once again be on True Visions, which seems to have succeeded in getting back the English Premier League broadcasts. Its subscribers are now holding their breath to see not only on how many games they’ll be able to watch but also on whether their rights as customers will be fully respected.
Thai football fans are the envy of the world in terms of their ability to watch so many major overseas leagues and tournaments. Our privilege, however, comes at a price – the monthly fees are not cheap. 
While the plight of CTH is largely seen as a business failure, closer scrutiny reveals the complete picture of customers rendered helpless by their football addiction – and some sloppy corporate decisions.