Friday, December 18, 2009

Who is the first pay TV operator in Singapore?

Who is the first pay TV operator in Singapore?

No, it is not the present Starhub Cablevision(SCV). The first pay TV operator is the then SBC (now MediaCorp). In 1992 SBC ran three subscription TV channels on the UHF band. An engineer from SBC Chang Long Kiat was the first CEO. It operated through a company known as Singapore CableVision(SCV) owned by SBC. The three channels were Newsvision, MovieVision and VarietyVision. Newsvision was a mainly CNN channel with local news and news from UK. MovieVision contained movies from HBO and VarietyVision featured mainly Chinese drama, movies, documentaries from HK, Taiwan and Japan. A TV antenna and a SCV set-top were required and bundled into the services if a viewer paid for all three channels. The rational from offering this service was the need to offer more channels for Singaporeans and expatriates in view of the clamouring for direct satellite services and demand for information. The urgency was triggered by comments that the Gulf war was imminent when viewers saw the grim face of President Bush whilst walking out of a crucial meeting. Millions over the world where CNN was available especially businessmen watched this news clip and made their business decisions accordingly.
SBC took on the challenge to start the first pay TV service in Singapore..and with a view to also operate a cable network. I together two other officials were sent to US to study cable TV operations. Singtel and SBC undertook feasibility study calling for consultants to make proposals. More than five international consultants responded. Eventually Continental CableVision USA was selectd. Engineers from Singtel and SBC assisted in the design of the hybrid-coaxial network which remained in use to this day. When the cable licence was issued in 1995, SPH . ST Ventures, Continental Vision and SIM (which was then a holding company for a restructured SBC) owned SBC. The operations of Singapore CableVision was passed over to engineers mainly from the ST Group together with the running of the three UHF subscription services. In 1998 Starhub Pte the second telecoms operator was formed and 2002 Starhub merged with SCV. SCV then was renamed Starhub Cable Vision (SCV). Randall Coleman from Continental Vision USA was the first CEO and Khaw Boon Wan chairman of SCV.
Continental Vision divested its shares later on to the other shareholders… and the new owners were SPH 26.7%, MediaCorp 41.3% and ST Telecom 32%. (this position has changed over the years)
SCV now carries all the free- to- air channels on analogue and digital cable. For the digital services, a SCV set top box is required to receive MediaCorp channels.
It had been a good experience for me to be involved in this project in the early days ie from the technology perspective. There were high hopes then that engineers from MediaCorp would operate the cable network. But this was not to be. It is one of the disappointments of my career....

1 comment:

peter said...

The cable TV was the same backbone which supported Internet services.