The tale of pay TV business, ASTRO and NBC

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Sep 20 2007
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Don’t you hate it that despite paying for the programs on monthly basis, you’re still getting bombarded with advertisements? To make matter worse Astro All Asia Network Plc (KLSE: ASTRO, stock-code 5076) which monopolize the pay-TV sector is forcing more advertisements to its subscribers. You might not realize it but if you care to measure the time-frame of advertisements in between a show / drama over the popular channel, you will noticed the ridiculous long period of commercials. Some veteran subscribers claimed it wasn’t that bad 3 or 4 years ago.

With Ananda Krishnan’s investment in Indonesia’s Astro-venture screwed-up big time after it registered a net loss of RM54.18 million for the second quarter ended July 31 2007, things can only get worse. Astro reportedly has invested about RM230 million since it bought 20 per cent of PT Direct Vision (PTDV) in July 2006. With only slightly more than 120,000 subscribers, PTDV (a joint venture between Astro and PT Broadband Multimedia’s subsidiary PT Ayunda Prima Mitra) is rushing against time to find a better working solution before the loss getting deeper into the investor’s pocket.

While some analysts still screaming a “Buy” on Astro stocks, I would give it a pass, at this moment. It could be that Astro has engaged Harry Potter’s help in casting a spell on its suppose-to-be competitor, unlisted pay-TV operator MITV Corp, as nobody heards from the Vincent Tan’s ambitious plan to rival Ananda’s Astro ever since. Except for the 3G license won by MITV, the company seems to be resting inside the grave-hole and can never rise.

Meanwhile let’s travel thousands of miles away into the land of America.
NBC Universal Inc. said yesterday that it would soon permit consumers to download many of NBC’s most popular programs free to personal computers and other devices for one week immediately after their broadcasts. The audience in U.S. is getting sophisticated and viewers are finding new methods to avoid watching the commercials such as using TiVo Inc.’s (Nasdaq: TIVO, stock) machines.
NBC Universal Free DownloadUnder the new NBC service, called NBC Direct, consumers will be able to download, for no fee, NBC programs like “Heroes,” “The Office” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on the night that they are broadcast and keep them for seven days. However the files, which would be downloaded overnight to home computers, would contain commercials that viewers would not be able to skip through. And the file would not be transferable to a disk or to another computer.

The smartest part with the service is that the files would be unwatchable after a seven-day period, kinda like Mission Impossible, minus the explosion and smoke. The requiremen is for you to have a PC or notebook with Microsoft Windows operating system. For Mac computers and iPods fanatics, you just have to wait for the next release.

You might have to wait another decade before Astro actually adopts such a methodology, not that it has to share the pie with any real competitor out there now. By the way, the service by NBC will starts in November, so watch out for it.

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