SingTel gets serious about IPTV

Mio TV bows on Internet platform

New nets from Sony Pictures Television Intl., the BBC and local preems for Shanghai Media Group’s Dragon TV, marked Friday’s entry into the pay TV market by Singapore’s dominant phone company Singapore Telecommunications.

SingTel bowed 33-channel Mio TV on its Internet platform, which also features other commercial and technical innovations. Mio TV will be entirely a la carte with no basic tier.

“Unlike other services which require customers to be tied to program schedules and rigid basic tier packages, mio TV allows subscribers full flexibility to watch what they want, when they want,” Allan Lew, SingTel CEO, said.

Sony’s upcoming films will be available to mio TV pay-per-view subscribers at the same time as the Singapore DVD release and before they are seen elsewhere on TV.

SingTel claims to have made advances with the mio TV’s electronic program guide so that subscribers can search for content by genre, by title or by actor’s name. Playout begins immediately.

Lew said that the cost of mio TV’s launch in SingTel’s current financial year was some $20 million, but did not disclose service’s subscriber and revenue targets or when it would break even. Financial analysts have pointed to startup costs that could dent SingTel profitability in the short to medium term.

The launch will help SingTel keep up with Singapore’s cable TV leader StarHub and will drive further takeup and revenue for SingTel’s broadband services.

Sony is using mio TV to give Asian preems to three new channels: PIX and PIX Thriller and a retuned Sony Entertainment Television. Movie channels will screen 20 titles per month, while SET, unlike its Indian namesake, is being targeted at upscale female auds, with genre focus on fashion, lifestyle, drama, comedy and reality.

BBC Global Channels is world preeming two channels, BBC Knowledge, a factual and documentary channel, and BBC Lifestyle. Beeb will also give a Singapore bow to its kids channel CBeebies.

Other programming firsts for Singapore include bow of Dragon TV, featuring Chinese news, current affairs, lifestyle and entertainment content, and Mei Ah Movies, Chinese film channel from Hong Kong.

Mio TV will also include three high definition channels: Rainbow Media’s VOOM HD and Equator HD, and new channel Sling HD which is a co-venture between VOOM and Singapore’s Mega Media, featuring roster of action sport, computer gaming and youth culture content. World Sport will be offered as a PPV option.

The threat of SingTel’s entry into the Singapore pay TV market after it was granted an IPTV license in January led StarHub to bolster the number and range of its channels.

In particular, StarHub outbid traditional sports channels such as ESPN Star Sports for rights to high-profile European soccer. StarHub, which has 490,000 subscribers, has recently had to increase its prices to cover growing programming costs.

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