Saturday, July 04, 2009

Cambodia to go legal with HBO?

From the Phnom Penh Post, "Royal Group in HBO rights agreement":
"THE Royal Group's Cambodia Entertainment Production Co Ltd (CEPCO) said Thursday it had obtained the exclusive rights to distribute American cable network HBO channels to nearly 100 cable operators in Cambodia."
Wow, there are 100 cable operators in Cambodia--every town must have one, and every hotel group too.

The GM of CEPCO says there are 1.5 million potential viewers of HBO programming, but many cable operators illegally redirect network signals from neighbouring countries. Well, we have been getting HBO since moving to Cambodia in 2006. Right now in Siem Reap, we get it through an analogue wire from the TV company. How the company gets the images from Thailand I have no idea (I do know it is from Thailand because sometimes you see some messages giving instructions). I don't know if they use a satellite dish and pretend to be a Thai customer or do they get it through a cable to Thailand (unlikely).

The article continues:

"Cambodia currently has no legal access to the five channels operated by HBO, and the cost of accessing the channel - and any potential future channels - is likely to be passed onto the consumer, Ouk Vora said. He added that cable operators would have to upgrade to digital technology before they could start charging customers for separate channel packages - the cost of HBO's channels, based on experiences elsewhere, would set users back between US$7 and $10 per month."

Right now we pay USD5 a month for some 80 channels, so I already knew the channels are pirated. In Singapore, we paid at least 20 times more for far fewer channels. According to Mr Ouk Vora quoted above, legal set up would cost you USD7-US10 just for HBO's channels (and extra for Star World, BBC etc etc)

Anyway, I expect it will be some time before the Royal Group can start charging for their services, since the infrastructure has to be in place. Digital TV is a ways away for Cambodia, except maybe for the cities. There is no digital cable where we live, for instance, so the analogue cable has to be upgraded. And the better ones are fibre optic cables, not copper ones which is costly. Then you need the decoder or set-top box, which I expect will be beyond the average Cambodian (the Royal Group may give it free but you can bet they will get the cost back in subscription fees).

Still, it is good to see there are plans for Cambodia to upgrade its technology. Just last month, on the 12th June, television stations in the US completed the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. This deadline was pushed back several times in the last few years because of both broadcasters' and consumers' inability to meet the FCC's [Federal Communications Commission, not the restaurant group in Cambodia!] criteria for a successful transition to digital broadcasting. The UK will start soon. We have been receiving digital cable in Singapore for a few years now. It is much better technology, clearer reception and you get additional features such as programme synopses.

If you want to learn more about digital cable, you can read the entry on wikipedia.

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