More households willing to shift to digital TV: ABS-CBN

By Lenie Lectura, BusinessMirror

Posted at Sep 23 2011 07:20 AM | Updated as of Sep 23 2011 08:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The number of households willing to switch to digital TV has increased after a broadcast giant held a two-week trial period.

ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. said on Thursday that it started on August 1 a test broadcast on digital terrestrial TV (DTT) using Japanese technology ISDB-T in selected areas in Pampanga and Bulacan.

The test, according to ABS-CBN DTT marketing head Miguel Mercado, showed that the sample households’ willingness to shift from analog to digital TV increased from 44 percent to 56 percent after a two-week period.

The company chose to test the technology in households belonging to the D and E economic classes in 29 homes in Mexico, Pampanga and 108 homes in the towns of San Miguel, San Ildefonso and San Rafael in Bulacan.

Based on the test broadcast, the strongest drivers are the increase in channel options enabled by the digital multi-frequency platform, as well as the improvement in signal quality or reception, which was cited as the key source of viewer satisfaction.

Mercado, in a briefing, told reporters ISDB-T’s more affordable set-top box has an initial retail price of P2,500 while European’s DVB-T technology is said to be 60-percent costlier.

“On the prices of digital boxes, we asked the consumers how much they are willing to pay. The price range they gave us is from P2,000 to P3,500. So based on these [price points], we tried to look for a sweet spot in which we could still do business,” said Mercado.

ABS-CBN has been preparing for the shift to digital TV for the past five years. Investments could reach as much as P1 billion this year and next.

Aside from ABS-CBN, other networks currently conducting broadcast test of ISDB-T technology are Net 25, Gem TV and government station National Broadcasting Network.

“We hope the go-signal from Malacanang will come within the month,” added Mercado.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has already chosen the Japanese standard over the European technology but has yet to get feedback from the economic team of the Arroyo administration.

“If their feedback is to proceed, then we will issue the IRR [implementing rules and regulations] and schedule the signing of the memorandum of agreement with the Japanese,” NTC deputy commissioner Carlo Jose Martinez said.

The team is composed of the agency head of the Department of Finance, National Economic and Development Authority, and Department of Trade and Industry. The NTC is awaiting their comments on the economic implications of its decision to shift to digital TV.