Sky Cable launches 'a la carte' viewing

by Kristine Servando,

Posted at Oct 16 2009 12:38 AM | Updated as of Oct 17 2009 12:58 AM

A Sky Cable "Select" Ad released mid-year in 2009.

MANILA - It's like shopping for individual cable channels at a grocery store.

Cable provider Sky Cable Inc. on Monday re-launched its "Sky Cable Select" program, which allows subscribers to pick and choose - piecemeal - which channels they want to include in their monthly service.

"It's like 'tingi-tingi.' It gives you the power to choose and select which channels you want and you just pay for those channels," said Ray Montinola, Vice President for Marketing.

"Because, before, you're used to paying for a fixed pack in your cable TV subscription. Even if you're not watching some channels you're forced to pay for it. So [Select is] really a breakthrough," he said.

The "Select" program was already launched last May for new subscribers, especially those in the lower-end market.

The company is now re-launching its campaign to target existing subscribers who are finding it hard to pay for their existing subscription plans, or those who simply want to customize their channel listing.

"[Some subscribers] leave us, they disconnect. But instead of leaving, they can now downgrade to a lower package and stay on. In effect, you pay for what you really watch," Montinola said.

Among Select's list of channels, best-sellers include sports programs, movie channels, and programs for children.

How to avail

To avail of the program, viewers need to call the company's hotline at 631-0000 and sign up for a P280 starter pack, inclusive of 20 essential channels that span various genres and cater to every member of the family.

They also have to pay a one-time installation fee of P2,000, which includes a DigiBox (a device that decodes TV signals).

After availing of the starter pack, viewers can add the channels that they want, at an added cost of P20 to P150 a month, depending on the channel.

Channels can be activated within 10 minutes of a subscriber's call request, since the company can access DigiBoxes remotely.

Subscribers can also avail of bundled packs like the Metro Pack (18 Metro channels for P350) and the HBO pack (4 movie channels for P350).

Sky Cable also offers pay-per-view channels like coverage of sports tournaments or the "Pinoy Big Brother Double Up" program.

Subscribers pay an additional P1,500 to view live and uninterrupted coverage of goings-on at the Pinoy Big Brother House on Channel 150, for the entire duration of the reality show.

"More than the basic subscription, they can just add channels depending on their budget or the viewing preferences of their family," said Malou Esparrago, head of Postpaid Marketing.

Existing subscribers who are under Sky Cable's Gold or Platinum plans can also manage their channel listing through the "Select" program.

They can add or remove programs, as long as the resulting list of channels is of equal to or of higher value than their current subscription plan.

They can also choose to downgrade to a starter pack and build their channel listing from there. Esparrago added that subscribers can avail of free DigiBoxes for every declared unit they already have.

Hits and misses

Guests and media "shop" for cable channels. The booth demonstrated how customers can pick and choose channels much like in a grocery store.

Since the "Select" program's launch last May, Montinola said the company has had more subscribers sign up and stay on.

"In terms of managing existing subscribers and getting new subscribers, Select has helped in that regard," he said.

Montinola refused to give exact figures but said the program was "meeting their expectations in terms of growing the market."

SkyCable currently has about 200,000 subscribers in Metro Manila and roughly 500,000 subscribers nationwide.

Sky Cable executives said the "Select" program responds to the needs of the market, given the country's financial situation.

The P280 starter pack, the cheapest price for a cable subscription as yet, allows the company to tap a broad market base.

The company's other offerings that were geared towards a higher-end market have not been doing as well as the budget-friendly "Select" program, according to Montinola.

Sky Cable had launched their high-definition (HD) package this year, which costs P5,000.

"Performance has not been as expected in the sense that, while people appreciate the quality [of HD viewing], medyo kulang pa. We still need to push it. But those who have it are really happy with it," Montinola said.

He added that they are thinking up schemes to make the HD package more affordable, like allowing customers to pay by installment.

For now, he said the company is still "halfway towards their year-end target" for HD sales.

Typhoon response

Many Sky Cable subscribers were also hard-hit in the recent storms that pummeled areas of Northern Luzon, Metro Manila, and parts of Calabarzon.

Montinola said several of the company's nodes (through which TV signals are carried through a series of co-axial cables) were also submerged in floods.

"But now almost, we're 100% okay in terms of operations," he said.

The company is offering 15-day rebates and temporary disconnections for subscribers whose houses were damaged by floods.

Those who avail of temporary disconnections can have their cable signal reconnected whenever they want, without having to pay the standard reconnection fee.

Esparrago said subscribers whose DigiBoxes were damaged in the typhoon can also have them replaced, without cost.

"We hope these measures will help alleviate all the difficulties they are facing right now," Montinola said. Report by Kristine Servando,

Note: is the online news department of ABS-CBN Interactive Inc., a subsidiary of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. ABS-CBN and Sky Cable Inc. are both part of the Lopez Group of Companies.