HCM CITY — More original content and reduced subscription fees – these are two immediate tasks for Viet Nam's pay-TV industry if it is to build on its success over the last decade, experts say.
They say that it is time for the industry to effect drastic improvements and create a new image so that it can overcome challenges that are curtailing its development.
In the 10 years since its incep-tion, the pay-TV industry has enjoyed spectacular growth, driven largely by the country's impressive economic expansion, according to Globaltrade.net
Pay television, also called premium television or premium channels, refers to subscription based television services, usually provided by both analog and digital cable and satellite, but also increasingly via digital terrestrial and internet television.
In recent years, despite the global recession, many major players in the domestic market were still making big investments in the sector, preparing for the next economic rebound that could further unleash the potential of pay-TV.
Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) say that as of May 2011, Viet Nam has a total of 67 broadcasters that manage 899 TV stations. These have 1,610 TV transmitters that cover 98.9 per cent of the country's territory, and 90.4 per cent of Vietnamese households have television sets at home.
Of the 20 million TV subscribers in 2011, 13.5 per cent (or 3.7 million) are pay-TV households. Given that the percentage of pay-TV subscribers in the Asia region is 40-60 per cent, it means Viet Nam presents huge potential for growth, particularly when more than haft per cent of the 85 million population are below 30.
Independent market watchdogs say pay-TV has been favoured by Vietnamese audiences since it offered more diverse and higher quality content through dozens of domestic and overseas channels with high speed transmission.
The industry has fairly diversified transmission modes in Viet Nam. Suppliers of cable, digital, satellite, mobile and IP TV services are offering many choices for pay-TV users, even in rural and remote areas, they say.
However, they note that the domestic pay-TV industry is also facing several limitations that will have to be overcome soon to ensure sustainable development in the future. A report prepared by the MIC says though the country has many TV channels, the monthly subscription prices are still very high as compared to the financial capacity of a majority of the Vietnamese people.
This has significantly affected the number of users opting for pay-TV services, which service providers say are a result of high infrastructure investment costs.
Meanwhile, many subscribers complain that pay-TV programmes have very little original content.
Less than 30 per cent of the broadcast content are produced by the broadcasters, and the remaining 70 per cent are mostly repeat transmission programmes.
As a relatively fledging industry, it has not yet built a highly professional and skilled workforce, and this can be seen in many programmes, subscribers have said.
To overcome limitations and offer more benefits to pay-TV users, the industry should cut investment costs by utilising satellite technology so as to lower subscription fees, experts say.
It should also strengthen focus on improved service quality by making highly professional and specialised programmes. — VNS