Taiwan bows its first DTH service

PPV launches on island

TAIPEI — Pacific Digital Media, Taiwan’s first licensed DTH service, launched Nov. 15 with 30 channels.

“We are shooting for a target of 50 channels within six months and at least 80 by the summer or fall of 2001,” said PDM general manager Daniel Tu.

Some of the programming PDM offers is not widely available through Taiwan’s cable networks, including BBC World, DW, Animal Planet and Arirang TV. Tu said that PDM will be introducing several other channels to the Taiwan market.

PPV bows

The launch of PDM also brings pay per view to the Taiwan market for the first time. Many insiders have long predicted that PPV will be a hard sell in a market where viewers are accustomed to paying a flat rate for service.

Tu disagreed. “We are confident that when customers see the quality of the product and its reasonable price, they will welcome the new service,” he said.

Many in Taiwan’s television industry have also expressed doubts about DTH’s ability to compete with the established cable providers in terms of price.

Again, Tu disagreed. “We offer a 24-month lease program under which the customer pays a total monthly fee of NT$999 ($31.70) for a set-top box, satellite dish and service,” he said.

As the set-top box and dish would cost over $500 if purchased separately, the actual cost of service over the two-year period of the lease works out to about $10.63 a month, significantly less than the $16 to $19 monthly fee charged by many cable providers.

Tu said that interest in the new service has been encouraging. “We are currently fielding more than 5,000 inquiries a day resulting in over 2,000 daily requests for installation,” he said. “We are confident of having a customer base of at least 120,000 by the end of our first 12 months of service, increasing to 250,000 viewers by the end of 24 months.”

PDM recently increased its paid-in capitalization to $47.59 million, well in excess of the $6.35 million required for DTH service providers under current government regulations.

Because of the recent increase in capitalization, the stake held by each of the company’s investors has not yet been finalized. Tentative share holdings provided by Tu indicate that Taiwan’s Pacific Wire and Cable Group will be the largest shareholder, with 25%, followed by Shilin Electric & Engineering, with 24%.

Other shareholders include France’s Lagardere Group (20%); Thomson Multimedia Group (15%); Teleport Access Services, Taiwan’s largest private satellite communications enterprise (10%); and Spring Intl., Taiwan’s largest distributor of Western and independent movies (5%).