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Koreans resist digital cable switch

As of December only 51,000 customers had signed up

SEOUL Korean cable operators face major challenges in moving analog customers to digital, according to panelists at the Korea Digital Cable TV Summit.

With subscriber gains, advertising growth and a wave of consolidation, the cable TV industry continues to grow while digital cable TV is stagnant.

As of December, only 51,000 customers had signed up to digital cable, compared with 13.2 million households (77% penetration) for analog.

Competition from digital satellite provider SkyLife (with 1.87 million subs) and this year’s planned introduction of Internet Protocol Television by telco KT is expected to pose further hurdles in expanding the digital market.

The $200 price of a set-top box is a major factor in an industry that has been marketed on its low cost.

Cable operators have also been unsuccessful in distinguishing between digital and analog offerings, according to Sue Taylor, VP and general manager of NDS Asia Pacific.

Generation gaps also affect the market, according to Ki-Jeong Kwon, director of CJ CableNet. “People under 40 have been satisfied with digital TV.”

Nonetheless, panelists pointed to video-on-demand and personal video recorders as future draws for digital cable.

Held in Seoul on March 13, the event was organized by the Korean Cable Television Assn. and Hong Kong-based Media Partners Asia.

— Darcy Paquet