Cable TV

TV Asia survey 2003: It's HBO all the way

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MUMBAI: HBO is the favourite channel among Asia's cable operators while Star network channels are also preferred, according to a survey conducted by Asian TV magazine Television Asia.

Indian cable operators do not want to add in-house channels to their bouquets as they feel the market has saturated, the survey pointed out.

The survey was conducted during the period of March 2003 to May 2003 among 41 cable operators in 16 Asian countries including India.

The survey has revealed where channels stand in various categories including programming, sales & marketing support, on-air promotions and best value for money.

HBO made a clean sweep by topping all the five categories. Star has given an impressive performance by having its network channels figured in the top three of all the categories. Another channel that stands out in the survey findings is Discovery which gave a good fight to Star in some of the categories.

The cable operators were interviewed by telephone, with supplementary questionnaires by fax and e-mail. The survey was carried out by Singapore-based business intelligence company, Fusion Consulting. The operators interviewed represent the majority of subscribers in each country, with the exception of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Thailand.

The survey findings:

Best Programming:
HBO - 47 per cent
Star Plus - 14 per cent

Discovery tops in the documentary category, with 56 per cent of votes against 28 per cent for National Geographic. In the news and business category, CNNI is first, with 38 per cent against BBC World's 24 percent and TVBS (Taiwan) 14%.

On-air Promotions:
HBO - 35 per cent
Discovery - 13 per cent
Star Plus - 10 per cent

Sales & marketing support:
HBO - 36 per cent
STAR - 29 per cent
Disney - 7 per cent

No other channel gets more than 5 per cent in the overall category. Discovery dominates in the documentary genre; CNNI dominates in the news and business genre with 26 per cent. Star dominated the entertainment category with 35 per cent. Hallmark, Sunli and SET India shares 27 per cent in the entertainment category. ESPN Star dominates in the sports category followed by Ten Sports. MTV tops the music category. 14 per cent of operators feel STAR's sales and marketing has a lot of room for improvement.

Most positive feedback from subscribers:
HBO - 30 per cent (popular among subscribers; 31 per cent say receives most positive feedback.
Star Plus - 15 per cent; 13 per cent
Discovery - 12 per cent; 13 per cent

Best value for money:
HBO - 23 per cent
Star Movies - 13 per cent
ESS - 13 per cent
Star Plus - 10 per cent

In India, 43 per cent of respondents say STAR Plus is
the best value for money channel, compared to 29 per cent who say HBO is, and 14 per cent who pick ESPN STAR Sports.

The survey also sought cable ops' opinions on the following issues:

What channels do you want least?
Opinion is divided on the channels that add the least to pay-TV packages across Asia. Overall, 26 per cent of pay-TV operators mention Hallmark, while in the kids category, 67 per cent say Nickelodeon adds least to their bouquets. In te documentary category, slightly more operators are likely to drop National Geographic (38 per cent) than sister channel, A1 (31per cent). Bundling is a key issue raised by operators in India, who feel they are wasting their money on channels that they don't really want.

What premium services do you think will work best in your market and what do you offer now?
The majority of pay-TV platforms in Asia believe that premium channels will work in their markets. More than 80 per cent of the operators who support premium channels already offer them. Of the 36 per cent who support pay-perview services, only a quarter are offering PPV channels. PPV services are least likely to work in India and Thailand, according to operators in those markets. Premium channels are, however, considered to have high potential in all markets.

Are you launching new channels of your own? And when?
Indian operators are least likely to add in-house channels to their bouquets. The reasons offered are primarily market saturation. The majority of operators in India say all genre needs are already being met. Other major reasons for reluctance to launch new channels are stiff competition and the high costs of production. 27 per cent of operators in 10 countries say they are planning to launch their own channels in the next year. Almost a third of respondents say their services will be up and running by the end of this year. The reasons given for launching new services include the opportunities for localisation and content control.

What changes would you like to see?
Eight per cent of respondents, particularly in India, also say they would like to reduce or remove advertising.Almost half the operators surveyed say they would like to
see changes in pricing structure. 24 per cent say they would like more flexibility in packaging and pricing;
bundling is a particularly sensitive issue in India, the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. 20 per cent say they want lower prices and 8 per cent say they would like to
correct subscribers perceptions of pay-TV programming; this response emerges most strongly in Southeast Asia, where operators say viewers do not understand the policy of repeating programming on cable channels.

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