FROM just 20,000 subscribers when it began in 2009 as a satellite TV operator in the country, Cignal subscriber base is expected to hit 600,000 by the end of this month. For 2014, it expects the base to grow to 800,000 subscribers with many viewers switching to HD (high definition) TV.
Though Cignal can work on SD (standard definition) television, its guaranteed HD images from the digitized boxes would not give as much appreciation or quality than what it can deliver in HD television.
Of this subscriber base, 25 to 30 percent are pre-paid or those that pay for service through loads from the regular Smart loading agents while the greater majority is postpaid, meaning they pay fixed fees per month.
Owned by Media Quest, a subsidiary of Philippine Long Distance Company, Cignal said it practically monopolizes areas which can’t be reached by cable television providers and have been enjoying good market reviews from these areas.
For instance, the government at one time formally asked Cignal to set up operations in the Spratlys as the residents there can’t even view free TV channels nor cable channels.
“Imagine before we set up there, the residents did not even know who and how the president looked like but they were very familiar with the channels emanating from Indonesia,” recalled Cignal Vice President and Marketing Head Guido Zaballero.
Zaballero told the Times it is the only postpaid satellite TV provider with its two competitors—Dream TV and GSAT—purely into prepaid.
“Our advantage is that our prepaid consumers can easily buy their loads from any Smart retailer, unlike the two others which have very few dealers,” he said.
Postpaid rates are P430, P590, P790 and P1, 290 and P1, 590 with the highest rate giving the consumers 91 channels. The P1,590 has 91 channels, the P1, 290 with five or six less channels and so forth down the line.
Nielsen has a box that they install in the country and the box can record what the viewer is watching.
The bigger market growth comes from classes A, B and C even if it is pay TV but “growth is also growing rapidly from the D and E markets since we have prepaid loads also,” he said..
Cignal charges P1, 000 installation fee since the operators will set up a satellite dish at the strategic areas outside the homes so that it could catch the images from the pre-positioned SES satellite.
The subscription rates dictate the number of channels a subscriber is entitled to but the company already has a fixed line-up of channels per rate.
Because of its HD clarity and quality, Cignal is best viewed for 43 inches or more plasma TV.
Zaballero said marketing surveys by Nielsen have shown that favorite among Cignal subscribers are the movie channels.
The company now has a special marketing package. A package includes a dish, two to three digitized boxes with the first costing P100 per month, the second and third boxes costing P230 a month each. These rates will be on top of the chosen subscription plus the one-time installation fee of P1, 000.
Zaballero said the high cost per channel is because of the huge licensing fees that Cignal has to pay the program owners abroad. Sometimes we buy per program but sometimes per channel. But in the cost per channel, “we have the option to replay the programs as often as we could.”
As to whether satellite TV will gradually replace cable television, Zaballero said he strongly doubts it since “even in the US they were talking about satellite TV eventually easing out cable TV but up to now cable TV is very much around there.”
He said just like cable and free TV, satellite TV is also averse to weather conditions. “If there is a cloud or rain cloud formation, the image dissemination is affected and we are investing in technologies that will make our system more adaptive to such climate-related disturbances.”