Asia subscription TV figures higher than ROW combined

MUMBAI: The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) today announced new data for subscription TV penetration across the Asia Pacific, noting that the region now has 326 million pay-TV, up 26 million homes in 2009.

According to CASBAA estimates, backed by global data, subscription television in Asia Pacific now reaches more homes than the rest of the world (ROW) combined. Digital pay-TV subscription households now account for over 115 million homes.

China and India have spearheaded much of the growth, accounting for 90% of all Asian pay-TV subscribers in 2009.

India now has 19 million digital pay-TV households, while China represents 69 million digital video connections. Overall Asian digital penetration stands at 35% across 14 markets.

"These are very encouraging figures," said Simon Twiston Davies, the CEO of CASBAA. "Much of the digital promise of the last five years is now being delivered."

Other good news released by CASBAA during its annual Convention in Hong Kong is the emergence of 18 new pay-TV operators across the region the in past 18 months.

Meanwhile, CASBAA’s annual pay-TV piracy survey of 15 Asia Pacific markets conducted in association with Standard Chartered Bank reflects the regional growth but also generating an updated estimate of US$1.94 billion in annual revenue losses to the industry.

"This estimate uses highly conservative assumptions; actual totals are likely to be much higher," said Lee Beasley, Director of Media & Entertainment, Origination & Client Coverage at Standard Chartered Bank. Last year’s CASBAA piracy survey produced an estimate of US$1.75 billion in annual pay-TV revenue leakage in Asia.

Evolving factors in the past 12 months include the strong growth in the legitimate pay-TV market which, inevitably, has meant more piracy; as new content is made available in more Asian languages, the stimulus to piracy increases. "Pay-TV is becoming more attractive," said Twiston Davies, "but that means more people want to steal."

As new markets open, previously hidden pockets of piracy have become apparent as in Indonesia, for instance, where the local industry and government have paid increasing attention to pay-TV signal theft in the last year. “Likewise, Vietnam is going through the same process,” said Beasley.

At the same time, in some places piracy has declined as investment in digital technology make signals more difficult to steal. Thus, piracy numbers in Hong Kong and Manila have declined as cable operators have deployed new digital transmission systems.

Tax specialists at PricewaterhouseCoopers participated in the analytical exercise, and came to the conclusion that the revenue leakage from the legitimate pay-TV industry cost regional governments at least US$247 million in uncollected taxes.

The biggest revenue losers were the governments in Thailand (US$76 million), Pakistan (US$56 million) and the Philippines (US$39 million).

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