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New digital cable TV in the offering

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PETALING JAYA  –  The ABN Media Group, the new digital cable TV company that began offering trials of its ABNxcess services in June this year in select areas, is targeting to reach 80% of the six million TV households in five years time by offering its basic package at RM29.99 a month.

Speaking to reporters at its broadcasting centre in Puchong yesterday, Asian Broadcasting Network (M) Sdn Bhd (ABN) president and chief executive officer Sreedhar Subramaniam said: “Our service is now available in Sri Damansara, parts of Subang and we will begin broadcasting in two areas in Johor Baru this month.

“(Early) next year we will extend our services in areas in Penang, Ampang and Puchong,” he said.

ABN is a unit of ABN Media Group, which is investing RM2bil to offer pay-TV services in the country. It is in direct competition with satellite pay-TV operator Astro and IPTV provider, Telekom Malaysia Bhd.

The ABN Media Group is majority-owned by Datuk K.K. Eswaran and for the RM2bil, the funding is part-equity and part-financing.

“We have all the funds in place but we cannot say how much of it is equity and financing,” he said.

He expects the TV company to break even when it hits one million subscribers but he would not say when the company will hit one million subscribers.

“We have thousands of customers now and every week we are seeing the conversion, people are interested in our services. We are marketing our services is by going door to door,” he said.

He said that “we will be able to reach 80% of the TV households in five years time and to have 100% coverage in the country, we will also offer our services via satellite, but only to rural areas.”

“Since rolling out fibre to homes takes time, we are now looking at offering TV services to a larger population via the Internet such as over-the-top services and that can be made available as early as next year,” he said.

The company is offering 50 linear channels for its basic package at RM29.99 a month and that comprise information, education and entertainment channels, some games and also radio channels. Video on demand and sports packages will also be made available soon.

Sreedhar said ABN would also be setting up a 24-hour news channels in the second quarter of 2013.

“What we are offering is affordable pricing for a whole gamut of offering. We are able to offer such pricing because of our platform and our pricing for family viewing of the different channels should not exceed RM100 a month,” he said.

Initially the company will not charge for set top boxes and installation, he added.

In the area of education, Sreedhar said ABN is exploring offering distant learning, for which the company is in talks with some colleges and universities on that.

Besides that its TV services will come with high speed broadband and voice options, which would possibly be introduced next year.

Though it is signing up its trial customers for the services, it has not yet began charging and Sreedhar said “we may not charge for the first quarter of 2013 and we hope to have a certain critical mass before we start charging.”

“Our goal is to be a pay-TV provider with triple play and offer services at affordable rates and we want to provide uninterrupted services to our customers and with our services, consumers will not have network congestion,” he said.

Motorola Mobility, which has been acquired by Google, is managing ABN’s network, and ABN has also hired contractors to lay fibre to homes so that its services can be made available to homes. It is also leasing fibre for its backbone infrastructure from fibre-optic players.

The global pay-TV market, according to Motorola Mobile Asia Pacific director of sales Ashish Bidani, is worth RM216bil as at 2011 and this includes cable, satellite and IPTV offerings.

Bidani said there was a huge market for cable-TV viewers and in the Asia-Pacific region, there were 431 million cable-TV users of which a large chunk is in China and India, 45 million direct-to-users and 25 million IPTV subscribers.