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After many false starts, Thailand’s first “real” cable service finally began broadcasting in the latter half of 1995. Coming down TelecomAsia’s two million new fiber-optic lines, Universal TV (UTV) is proving popular and has established pay TV player IBC worried.

Delays in laying the fiberoptic lines along Bangkok’s notoriously congested thoroughfares meant a stalled launch date, but as soon as UTV was available in its upper middleclass test area, reports came in of crystal-clear reception and up-to-date programming.

IBC president Niwat Boonsong countered by suggesting it was “unfair” for UTV alone to be allowed to use TelecomAsia’s new fiber-optic network, and that IBC should be able to broadcast on the new network too. “It belongs to the people, ” he says.

Terrestrial TV continued on its regular course, and apart from market leader Channel 7 giving Thai audiences a taste of a Mexican telenovela, not a lot has changed. None of the terrestrial channels has expressed any concern over the launch of more cable services.

“In the long term, among upper-income people, we will lose some shares to cable, but our role is still to serve the masses. The shares that we may lose are not a big worry, ” explains Boontem Dhageewongee, development manager at Channel 7.

Channel 7 will be sending a delegation to Mip Asia, headed by Surang Drempree, deputy managing director and programming manager, but the channel doesn’t expect to do much business. Channel 3 officials say they won’t be attending.