ABS-CBN investing heavily on digital TV

Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Publicly-held ABS-CBN Corp. of the Lopez family is investing heavily on infrastructure and test broadcast activities to ensure a smooth transition to digital terrestrial television (DTV) and cable TV to bring clear TV viewing to millions of Filipino households that continue to make do with poor picture and audio quality.

Miguel Mercado, marketing head of ABS-CBN DTV, said DTV would offer viewers digital clear picture and sound for all existing channels and also more content as each network can broadcast in more than one channel.

Mercado said the Lopez-owned multimedia conglomerate has always been active in pursuing better ways to deliver television content to viewers, pioneering “pay television” in the country via SkyCable in 1990.

According to him, about 80 percent of households in the country today do not have cable TV and majority of these households belong to the “DE” socioeconomic class who could not afford to subscribe to cable TV services.

Of this number, he pointed out that less than 52 percent of households receive only two channels of tolerable quality with the current analog TV transmission and it is unlikely that they would get better TV reception given the developments in urban cities that are barring TV signal transmission.

“People do not get clear reception on TV because of the buildings and billboards that create interference in the signal.  They don’t have a choice and they think it is because of their old TV sets. DTV will diminish the effect of development in the transmission of content and help the government fulfill its mandate of providing citizens access to information as it enables them to view more channels clearly,” he added.

On the other hand, only 20 percent of Filipino households have cable and they are the only ones who enjoy clear picture and audio quality as opposed to the experience of the majority of Filipinos. 

“All the network’s efforts of producing world class programs are for naught if the content cannot be viewed and appreciated in its true value, if it even reaches the people at all. But the main reason we continue to innovate is to give the people a choice, an access to a wealth of information and entertainment that analog transmission simply cannot address very well,” he said.

SkyCable has tied up with Singapore Technologies Telemedia which infused P3.9 billion fresh capital to the company. With the acquisition of Destiny Cable, the pay TV platform increased its number of subscribers by 40 percent to 700,0000 from 500,000.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has endorsed anew to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) the adoption of the Japanese standard — Integrated Service Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial or ISDB-T standard — instead of Europe’s Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial 2 or DVB-T2 for the Philippines’ migration to digital terrestrial TV by 2015.

The NTC was supposed to issue the implementing rules and regulations for digital TV in July 2010 but was delayed after Malacañang ordered a review. As early as 2010, the agency issued an order adopting ISDB-T as the standard.

ABS-CBN chairman and chief executive officer Eugenio L. Lopez III said the company is prepared to shift to either the Japanese or the European technology unlike its rival GMA Network Inc. which is pushing for the European technology.

“We are ready either way,” Lopez stressed.

ABS-CBN got the green light from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier to remove the preemptive rights of shareholders in the stocks that would be issued or disposed by the company as it plans to take in financial investors to raise funds for its capital expenditures amounting to P5 billion this year including the shift to DTV.

According to him, proceeds of any fund raising activity being arranged by ING would be used to finance initiatives being undertaken by ABS-CBN such as the shift to digital TV as mandated by the government regulator.

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