Casbaa report predicts sweet-n-sour year for Asia

The good news first. The Asia Cable & Satellite Guide 2002 has projected a strong pay TV subscriber growth for Asia, with year end 2001 estimates pegged at 165.6 million subscribers. A healthy 14 per cent year on year growth and a penetration of a total of 484.9 million subscriber homes has been forecast for the year. India and China will contribute 80 per cent to the subscriber growth in the region, according to the guide.

Now the bad news. The report, published by the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) and Media Partners Asia (MPA), says that higher operating costs, restrictive regulation and piracy have depressed pay TV cash flow and bottom line earnings throughout the region. Pay TV systems have been unable to access the capital they need to accelerate digital build-out and drive earnings momentum, the report notes. If the region's broadband cable and satellite industries can access greater capital, content and technology, to drive digital media distribution over the next three years, the overall pay TV market could be worth almost US $ 40 billion by 2012, in terms of a basic revenue opportunity, it says.

Casbaa executive director Simon Twiston Davies says the data provided in the Guide reaffirms the view that the Asian pay TV and datacasting industries are only at the starting block. He feels the current economic climate will not hold back significant investment in systems and programming. "The fact remains however that pay TV in Asia can only fulfill its potential once governments further move on the deregulation they have only just begun," MPA officials say.

The guide shows total industry revenues at US $11.3 billion in 2001, a 20 per cent growth from last year with subscription revenues at US $ 9.5 billion (up 23 per cent with Japan's pay TV market contributing more than 40 per cent) and advertising at US $ 1.9 billion (up 7 per cent). The report models average revenue per subscriber unit (ARPU) to rise from US $ 5 per month in 2001 to US $ 9 by 2012 with subscription revenues projected to reach US $ 33.9 billion. The net worth of the pay TV advertising market is forecast at almost US $ 5 billion by 2012.

Highlights of the report -

* Subscriber momentum has largely come from Korea, India and China while smaller markets like Malaysia have also contributed to top line growth.

* Together, China and India have almost an 80% share of pay TV subs in Asia.

* The ARPU for operators in these growth markets remains low however (US$1-US$2/month in China; US$3 in India; US$10 in Korea) while monthly ARPU in Malaysia (US$17), Singapore (US$20) and Hong Kong (US$31) has dipped following the introduction of cost-effective packages, part of a bid to drive subscriber growth.

* Digital pay TV penetration has yet to assume major significance in Asia. By year-end 2001, MPA estimates 6.6 mil. digital pay TV subs, almost entirely consisting of DTH satellite customers, of which communication and broadcast satellite platforms in Japan would represent more than 60 per cent.

* The bulk of digital cable deployments over the next three years will be via one-way set-tops and cost-effective two-way set-tops. By year-end 2002, MPA forecasts 2.1 million digital cable subs, with 61 per cent estimated as customers on one-way set-tops that support basic pay channels and addressability.

Asia Pacific Pay TV Subscriber Homes (Cable & DTH Satellite)

Market 2000

All data in (000) except % chg. * represents year-end estimates ** includes NHK's analog and digital broadcast satellite services

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