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Round-Up: PLDT, Discovery + More



Philippine telco PLDT continues to bolster its SVOD armory, securing programs and live channels from Fox International Channels for subscribers to its fixed line (Home) and mobile (Smart) broadband services. The deal follows a tie-up with Southeast Asian SVOD provider iFlix last month.

The move sees PLDT, the largest telecoms group in the Philippines, firm up its stand against the country’s number two telco Globe, which is promoting iFlix rival Hooq.

Globe is an associate company of Singtel, the main investor in Hooq. It recently entered a major partnership with Disney, which also provides content to iFlix as well as PLDT’s DTH pay-TV brand Cignal.

Existing users for PLDT’s DSL Home offering can access the Fox content, which includes catch-up, VOD and live services, for an extra 99 pesos (US$2.2) a month. Subscribers to the more expensive Fibr service will have these extras included in their existing rates.

Smart subscribers, meanwhile, can also pay an extra 99 pesos/month for the Fox content, which will also be part of PLDT’s Smart Life Entertainment Everywhere bundles.

Fox is likely to extend its OTT services to Cignal in due course.



Discovery has named alumnus Arthur Bastings, a former EVP and MD of the factual broadcaster’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, as its new president and CEO of Asia-Pacific, effective September 1.

Bastings presided over a period of exceptional organic growth in EMEA, Discovery notes in its press announcement, hinting at similar expectations for APAC.

Bastings worked for Discovery EMEA for six years, from 2004 to 2010.

Further momentum in this part of the world, where Discovery has formidable strongholds in Australia, India and Japan, will likely come from astute strategic planning, combined with applied skills in making and marketing content that has local appeal.

There will be less money for acquisitions, following Discovery’s €1.3 billion bid for six years of TV and multi-platform Olympic rights in Europe, which the broadcaster will pay in installments over the course of its tenure.

A timely and sensible buy in India, however, could deliver extra momentum in a market where cable digitalization and mobile broadband promise a new lease of life for more targeted and premium content.

Japan is a trickier proposition, especially as the influence of Discovery’s minority JV partner, cable MSO J:Com, wanes in a market where linear channels face increasing competition from on-demand viewing.

Discovery remains in pole position in Australia and New Zealand however, where the broadcaster commands the largest share of revenues in both markets for a third-party channel provider.

In Southeast Asia meanwhile, Discovery recently secured robust renewals for its channels in Singapore, although carriage for its sports channels, including exclusive rights to Champions League football, has yet to be finalized.

Bastings will also oversee Discovery’s sports channels, Eurosport and Setanta Sports Asia, alongside Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton.

Bastings rejoins Discovery from Millicom, a telecoms and media company focusing on Africa and Latin America.



Ortel, a regional MSO based in East India, has set tongues wagging with a bold move to offer 12 months of free broadband for its subscribers – a first for India.

Depending on uptake, it could be an expensive gift, based on the expectation that people will be more willing to take paid plans in the future, once they have a better idea of what broadband offers.

The timing looks right, with the prospect of fierce competition from DTH operators and Reliance’s upcoming mobile broadband service around the corner, once cable digitalization in Ortel’s stronghold, in the state of Odisha, starts in earnest.

A bundled broadband offer could assist Ortel’s expansion plans to attract more subs in neighboring states too.

Other cable networks are unlikely to follow suit however, at least for now. Ortel has direct control over the vast majority of its subs base, in contrast to many MSOs which have to rely on local operators for access to the last mile.

MSOs in richer states, already facing direct competition with DTH operators, also have less to gain at this stage, although they may be tempted to try something similar, as competition intensifies again once Reliance enters the field.

Ortel subscribers will receive 250MB free data each month as part of the deal, paying Rs0.6 for each additional MB.

They will also have to pay hardware costs in advance (Rs1,599/US25), although this will be refunded if they opt out of the deal in the first three months.

Subs will be able to upgrade their plan at any time.

The offer is open in all areas where Ortel Broadband is provisioned within its cable TV network.



Reports of a change of direction and renewed ambition for Eros Now, a direct-to-consumer video streaming service run by Indian film studio Eros International, have been circulating in the press, highlighting shifting competitive dynamics in Indian OTT.

Although unverified, a reported push for more ad revenue in what was primarily an SVOD offering, seems sensible.

Although movies are a prime driver of online video viewing (alongside sports), the first windows still go to pay-TV platforms willing to pay for them, making it hard to justify a subs-based service.

At the same time, Eros Now is reportedly looking to bulk up with a possible acquisition of BoxTV, an SVOD service run by Times Internet.

In another unverified report, Eros is also looking to raise additional funds for Eros Now by selling a 10% stake to Fullerton Fund Management, part of Singapore’s Temasek.

Online video remains a long-term bet in India, where few people can afford mobile broadband plans.

Service providers, already contending with low Arpus and high content costs, can accelerate uptake by subsidizing data costs, frequently in partnership with a telco, or focus for now on affluent audiences as well as urban centers where people can go online via WiFi.

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