NBTC moves to regulate over-the-top operators for fairness’ sake

Economy February 17, 2017 01:00


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THE NATIONAL Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) broadcasting committee has studied ways to draw up rules to regulate the fast-rising over-the-top (OTT) segment to expose all content broadcasters to the same equal treatment and regulations.

OTT is the delivery of media content such as films or TV programmes via the Internet to viewers, either free or for a charge.

“The main reason to regulate OTT is that we have to regulate all broadcasters on an equal basis. We’re studying more details of the OTT but our regulations will not affect consumers. We’ll focus on regulating content, especially the violent content,” said broadcasting committee chairman Natee Sukonrat.

According to the NBTC, OTT operators on the free-of-charge platform include YouTube, Line TV, and digital TV operators such as Channels 3, 7, 8 and Workpoint. Their programmes earn income from advertising. 

The paid-platform OTT |operators include Netflix, iflix, Primetime, Advanced Info Service’s AIS Play, and TrueVisions’ Anywhere. 

Recently AIS secured a five-year exclusive deal with HBO to broadcast HBO HD, HBO Signature, HBO Family, HBO Hits, Cinemax, and Red via both its mobile and fixed broadband Internet networks.

The NBTC has hired Time Consulting to study the OTT industry here. According to the study, YouTube had the highest advertising OTT revenue in Thailand at Bt1.66 billion last year, while Line TV and digital TV operators offering an OTT service made a combined Bt502 million in ad revenue. 

Dew Waratangtragoon, deputy chief executive of One Channel of GMM Grammy, said that besides facing tough competition among the digital-TV broadcasters, the company also experienced mounting competition from OTT operators, which have lower operating costs. Many content providers join with OTT operators to broadcast their content. 

“We want the NBTC to hurry up and look into this matter,” he said.

In a separate matter, Natee said the outlook for the TV broadcasting industry this year looked positive, thanks to the regulator launching several measures to ease the burden of terrestrial digital TV broadcasters.

The crucial relief measures include an extension of the deadlines for their upfront licence payments and the NBTC’s three-year (2017-2019) cost subsidy for digital-TV operators transmitting free programmes to cable and satellite TV platforms.

Natee added that the relief measures would help digital-TV broadcasters save a lot of money this year, which would result in their investing an additional Bt12.615 billion over the next three years. 

He estimated that this year alone digital-TV broadcasters would invest Bt4.984 billion on programme development and content, thanks to the NBTC relief measures.