ABS-CBN ready to shift to digital TV format

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ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. is ready to make the switch to the digital television (DTV) format this year, or ahead of 2015 which is the year networks must switch to the new broadcasting protocol.

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Miguel Mercado, ABS-CBN DTV head of Marketing, said that viewers need not wait long because ABS-CBN is ready to launch DTV operations within the year. He said that the company is just waiting for the go-signal from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to switch to the new format.

He said that the switch to DTV will improve the viewing experience of the public.

“People do not get clear reception on TV because of the buildings and billboards that create interference in the signal. They don’t have a choice and they think it is because of their old TV sets,” Mercado added.

ABS-CBN conducted DTV trials in more than 1,000 households all over the Philippines. The studies generated very positive feedback.

Since 2007, ABS-CBN has been laying the groundwork for this new technology. The network’s DTV system is now in place and was prepared for rollout within the second half of 2013.

The Lopez-led company has invested close to P2 billion to shift to the digital TV format.

Unlike cable or satellite TV with regular fees, DTV requires only the purchase of the Digibox which costs only as much as a DVD player.

The network’s study also revealed that viewers will definitely buy the box in order to get new channels for free.

About 80 percent of households in the country today do not have cable television and majority of these households belong to the D and E socioeconomic class, who could not afford to subscribe to cable TV services to get clearer picture and sound, according to Miguel Mercado.

Of this number, less than 52 percent of households receive only two channels of tolerable quality with the current analog TV transmission, and it is unlikely that they will get better TV reception given the developments in urban cities that are barring TV signal transmission.

Filipino households would have to spend more or less P1,000 to buy the boxes to switch to DTV.

“More or less P1,000 possible retail price, but its not yet final,” NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

“The commission is still studying and had ongoing informal meetings with different sectors about DTTV,” he added. DTTV stands for digital terrestrial television.

No opposition
The NTC said that the major players in the industry did not oppose the adoption of Japan’s Integrated Service Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial or ISDB-T standard.

The commission said that rivals ABS-CBN and GMA Network Inc. were well represented during the public hearings on the matter.

The NTC chose the Japanese standard because it is cheaper than Europe’s Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial 2, or DVB-T2. The Philippines will be the first in Asia to adopt the Japanese standard for digital TV.

Meanwhile, GMA earlier said that except for its transmitter, all of its equipment are 90-percent digital. On the other hand, Noel Lorenzana, chief executive officer and president of TV 5, said that, “We really welcome the Japanese standard, in fact we have been preparing for that. We have tested the system and see how it’s going to pan out at the same time, we are planning on how we could be competitive with the new system.”

He added that, “We are happy that the Japanese standard was chosen.” Digital television has enabled broadcasters to offer television with better picture and sound quality. It also offers multiple programming choices.

But ABS-CBN said that the government may need to subsidize the delivery of digital TV services to facilitate the entry of digital broadcast services into the country.

“It happened in, I think in Japan and the United States [US], when there was a shift a lot of the people experienced blackout in their TV sets, so the government had to subsidize these boxes, we’ll see,” said Ronaldo Valdueza, chief financial officer of ABS-CBN.

The country is planning to switch to DTV from analog come 2015, after President Benigno Aquino 3rd met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the 23rd Association of Southeast Asian Summit.

President Aquino met with Abe during a bilateral meeting at the recent summit where both leaders discussed the country’s shift to the digital terrestrial television format of Japan. Some of the countries that have adopted DTV include the US, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Denmark.

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