ABS-CBN to end analog TV service

June 27, 2006

(Business World via NewsEdge) ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. is applying for a license to provide digital television-terrestrial service (DTT) services, aligned with the global broadcast industry's thrust to switch off analog television programming as early as 2010.

Seen as a cost-effective alternative to cable or satellite systems, broadcast providers with DTT services can offer digital programming while still leveraging on their existing analog infrastructure.

DTT technology makes use of aerials instead of satellite dishes and cable to offer television signals that are digitized and compressed, allowing providers to carry more information faster, simultaneously, and with better sound and picture quality.

Broadcast companies worldwide, particularly those operating in countries with low cable and satellite penetration, are starting to make inroads into DTT programming. These nascent services include interactive TV, multi-channel programming, interactive advertising, TV-based online shopping and banking and the delivery of premium television content directly to mobile phones.

In its letter to the National Telecommunications Commission, ABS-CBN said the company "remains legally, financially and technically qualified to maintain and operate" the DTT service.

"As part of its efforts to upgrade its broadcast operations and enhance the efficiency of its service, applicant hereby manifests its intention to provide DTT service, through the conversion of its existing analog service to digital," read ABS-CBN's letter.

Company officials were not immediately available for comment.

ABS-CBN said the proposed conversion of DWWX-TV station (Channel 2) from analog to digital broadcast is being undertaken to assist the Philippine government's initiative to effect migration of television broadcast stations from analog to digital transmissions, "at the earliest time practicable."

"The proposed conversion shall initially be a migration whereby applicant shall operate analog and digital services concurrently, until such time that the Commission mandates termination of all analog television broadcast transmissions," it said.

In the Philippines, regulators and the private sector are still studying whether or not the country can catch up with the International Telecommunications Union's 2010 timetable to start switching off analog broadcast programming.

According to the ITU, most countries have already designated specific dates for the switchover to DTT programming from analog programming.

For the US, its Congress passed a law in December last year calling for a mandatory switch-off date of February 2009, while the UK opted for a switch-off date of December 2012.

Countries such as Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, and Japan have established analog television switch-off dates from 2007 to 2012. Other countries such as Canada have not set a specific switch-off date, opting to allow the market to dictate the introduction of DTT.

Prior to ABS-CBN's DTT application, sister company Bayan Telecommunications Inc. (Bayantel) announced in December last year its plan to offer Internet-based broadcasting or IPTV services.
Bayantel has even put together a group, composed of executives from ABS-CBN and cable TV firm SkyCable, that will engineer the master plan for the rollout of IPTV across the country.

It wants to offer IPTV by bundling the video content of ABS-CBN and SkyCable with the telephony and Internet services of Bayantel, and then selling the package at a discount.

In August last year, the Philippine subsidiary of Nokia said it was planning to negotiate with broadcast companies, including ABS-CBN, to offer digital television service over cellular phones.

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