LOPEZ-LED media giant ABS-CBN Corp. yesterday announced plans to launch five new premium channels on free-to-air TV as it prepares for its digital broadcast once government regulators approve the rules by June.
Antonio Miguel A. Mercado, ABS-CBN marketing manager for digital television, said the company is ready to roll out its digital broadcast service based on the Japanese standard earlier endorsed by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
“We have prepared as early as four years ago to shift to digital broadcast, as soon as the NTC finalizes the rules and guidelines about digital TV broadcast,” Mr. Mercado told reporters yesterday.
He said if ever the NTC decides to adapt the European standard for digital broadcast in the country, ABS-CBN will be able to make the necessary adjustments to broadcast later this year.
He, however, said that ABS-CBN is more ready to immediately broadcast in digital format using the Japanese standard, since the company has already conducted test broadcasts in select cities in the country using the said platform for its digital terrestrial TV migration.
The Japanese standard, which is called the Integrated Services Digital Broadcast-Terrestrial, is being used in Japan, and has been adapted by other countries like Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Paraguay in their shift to digital TV broadcast.
ABS-CBN, as well as GMA Network, Inc., and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., favored the Japanese platform over the European Digital Video Broadcast-Handheld standard, since the former was said to be cheaper to set up.
The NTC earlier said the set-top boxes (which is needed by analog TV sets to receive digital signals) would cost about $10 to $11, while the price for the European standard gadget would range from $12 to $13.
Mr. Mercado said ABS-CBN’s setup boxes, which it calls “DigiBox,” will cost between P1,000 to P3,000.
Digital TV is a system for broadcasting and receiving digital sound and video signals that requires a specifically designed, and more advanced TV set than the traditional analog box.
Mr. Mercado said digital TV produces better picture and sound compared to the prevailing analog system. “The digital TV viewing experience is comparable to seeing a movie on DVD,” he said.
The NTC estimates that around 14 million Filipino households use analog TV sets. To entice TV owners to shift to digital by spending on DigiBoxes, Mr. Mercado said ABS-CBN is preparing five new channels that would only be available to viewers thru the setup boxes that the network will sell. He said the five new channels will be on top of Channel 2, the current very high frequency channel of ABS-CBN, as well as Studio 23, which is ABS-CBN’s ultra-high frequency channel in the current analog broadcast system.
Mr. Mercado said digital TV occupies lesser space in the frequency so that a single TV station can broadcast on more than one channel, giving viewers more programs options.
“The new channels that ABS-CBN will unveil will cater to different audiences. The new channels to be made available include two channels for kids, a channel for the youth, a channel for dads and a channel for moms,” he said.
He declined to elaborate, saying that the new channels will be launched once ABS-CBN gets the green light to begin its digital TV broadcast. TV networks are waiting for the NTC to issue the implementing rules and regulations for digital television-terrestrial services before finally rolling out their respective digital TV programs.
Mr. Mercado said the five new channels will be a source of additional revenues for ABS-CBN since they will have commercials. He said ABS-CBN has been preparing for the switchover since 2007.
Shares in ABS-CBN closed 40 centavos lower to settle at P42 apiece yesterday. - Jeffrey O. Valisno, Business World, dated 4 April 2011, 08:46 PM.Source: I.T. Matters