Manila, Philippines (June 17, 2016) – Sky Cable, the largest cable operator in the Philippine archipelago is successful in migrating its direct-to-home (DTH) satellite service, branded as SkyDirect, from the current SES New Skies NSS-11 satellite to the new SES-9 satellite at 108.2 degrees East with 40 channels.
Luxembourg-based satellite owner SES announced last May 24, 2016 that it signed a multi-year, multi-transponder capacity agreement with Sky Cable, to broadcast DTH television channels via the SES-9 and New Skies NSS-11 satellites.
In May 2015, Sky Cable filed an application with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for the roll-out of its direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service with plans of spending at least 252 million pesos for equipment and working capital. On December 23, 2015, despite opposition from 14 companies from the cable and television industry, NTC granted Sky Cable a provisional authority to operate and maintain a DBS service, also known as DTH, in 251 cities and municipalities for 18 months. In its filing, Sky Cable plans to get at least 50,000 subscribers in the first year of operations and increase it to more than 800,000 subscribers in 10 years. DBS transmits signals to subscribers using satellite dish receivers.
SkyDirect had a soft-launching last January 2016 for its prepaid service and was formally launched on March 18, 2016 with Ms. Kris Aquino as commercial endorser. It proposed one-time fee of P3,990 for a package which includes the digital receiver box or the “digibox”, satellite dish and installation fee. It offers prepaid card denominations worth P99 with 25 channels, P250 with 32 channels and P390 with 40 channels, all valid for 30 days.
Existing subscribers of other DTH providers may avail of the SkyDirect digibox-only package at a lower price of P1,799 by reusing their existing satellite dishes.
A unit of ABS-CBN Corporation (PSE: ABS), Sky Cable’s venture into satellite TV service would compete with three existing industry players, namely Cignal of the PLDT Group, Dream Satellite TV and GSat. Cignal claims DTH leadership with more than 1.2 million subscribers as of December 2015 and operates nationwide using SES-7 satellite.
The contracted capacity with SES-9 will enable Sky Cable to effectively roll out a nationwide DTH satellite television service across 251 cities and municipalities in the Philippines complementing its existing wired cable television (CATV) offerings. The SES-9 satellite was successfully launched into space last March 4, 2016 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
SES-9 is co-located at 108.2 degrees East alongside SES-7 which aims to provide additional and replacement capacity for DTH broadcasting and data in Northeast Asia, South Asia and Indonesia, and maritime communications for the Indian Ocean. It will replace NSS-11 that already reached the end of its 15-year expected product life in 2015.
SES is currently serving more than 40 DTH platforms worldwide and will enable Sky Cable to deliver high-quality content to homes across the Philippines including remote locations and islands that are underserved by terrestrial broadcast and wired cable TV networks. Sky Cable offers its cable TV services to 800,000 subscribers in 19 cities and municipalities in the Philippines as of 2015.
“The geography of the Philippines presents a unique set of challenges for fibre or terrestrial connectivity. Our satellites are able to overcome these limitations and provide comprehensive and high-powered coverage over the entire archipelago including under-connected areas in the Philippines. We are glad to support Sky Cable as they use both ground and space infrastructure to expand their TV audience reach,” says Deepak Mathur, Senior Vice President Commercial, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East at SES. “This latest contract on SES-9 shows the continued momentum of serving our prime DTH neighbourhoods on our largest satellite dedicated for Asia-Pacific.”
SkyCable’s Chief Operating Officer Antonio S. Ventosa said “We are pleased to tap SES’s global expertise and extensive satellite footprint as we venture into providing satellite TV services for our growing subscriber base. We are confident that with our partnership with SES, we will be able to deliver content seamlessly to potential new customers all across the country.”
Sky Cable’s entry in the DTH business is being opposed by Cignal and sister company TV5 Network, Inc. under the PLDT group, Dream Satellite and the Philippine Cable Television Association citing violation of the anti-monopoly law. Moreover, oppositors said in a filing with the NTC, that existing DTH players in the Philippines are expected to continue incur huge losses due to tougher competition with the entry of Sky Cable. From 2009 to 2013, Cignal incurred an accumulated deficit of more than 5 billion pesos, Dream with more than 1.1 billion pesos and GSat with more than 170 million pesos.
On February 2016, TV5 formally filed a motion for reconsideration with the NTC, asking for the dismissal of Sky Cable’s application and reversal of its provisional authority issued last December 2015. TV5 argued that DBS is beyond the scope of Sky Cable’s franchise and articles of incorporation. According to TV5, Sky Cable’s amended articles of incorporation states that it can establish and operate a CATV service which is “wired” in nature and not a “wireless” service like DBS. However, NTC emphasized in its December 2015 order that DBS service is within the scope of Sky Cable’s congressional franchise. [techthetruth]