Thu, Nov 25, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Chunghwa Telecom inks new digital-TV agreements

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), Taiwan's largest telecom operator, yesterday inked new agreements with digital-content providers in a move to boost the use of its nascent multimedia-on-demand (MOD) digital TV service.

Signing a memorandum with entertainment-on-demand provider Anytime Pte Ltd, state-run Chung-hwa Telecom will start to provide its MOD subscribers with the latest movies from Hollywood film-making companies earlier than movie channel HBO.

"To cater to subscribers' needs, we are aggressively expanding our programs and channels. We believe Chunghwa Telecom's efforts will receive positive feedback," said chairman Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦) on the sideline of a signing ceremony with Anytime Pte and other local digital-TV program providers.

With more contents coming in, Ho Chen expected the state-run telecom carrier to expand its MOD customer base to 300,000 households next year from the current 27,000.

In the initial phase, Anytime Pte is set to offer around 70 paid movies per month for Chunghwa Telecom subscribers, beginning next month, from its 20,000-title storage, said Andrew Yap, an executive official of the Singapore-based entertainment company.

The big jump in sign-ups will also partly be a result of Chunghwa Telecom's planned expansion of its coverage to central and southern Taiwan in the first quarter of next year, according to Ho .

In March, Chunghwa Telecom began delivering TV signals over its high-speed Internet links, or asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL), to household subscribers in northern Taiwan.

This is part of Chunghwa Telecom's plans to nudge into new growth areas to fend off stiff competition from rivals, analysts said.

Now mobile services still make up a hefty portion, or 40 percent, of the phone company's total revenue of NT$151.8 billion in the first 10 months this year. Fixed-line phone services and broadband services accounted for about a third of the amount.

"We're seeing a growing trend of more telecom operators tapping into the telecom TV area. But, we don't expect Chunghwa Telecom to taste any fruit from new digital broadcasting services soon," said Chris Tan (譚志忠), a telecom analyst with Yuanta Core Pacific capital Management (元大京華投顧).

Poor television program contents are one of the deciding factors Chunghwa Telecom being able to persuade more local cable TV subscribers to switch to its MOD service in coming years, Tan said.

The telecom carrier has missed its target of 100,000 subscribers in the first year after launch, on the excuse of a constrained supply of set-top boxes, devices which switch analog signals into digital.

Chunghwa Telecom offers 18 channels for its MOD users at a minimal payment of NT$75 a month, and the number of channels will increase to exceed 30 by the middle of next year.

Local cable TV channel operators now provide over 100 channels for their subscribers to choose from.

“The selection now is too limited to make the service attractive,” Tan said.

Under such circumstances, Tan said he douted that Chunghwa Telecom can hit the 2005 target of boosting subscribers to 300,000, Tan said.

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