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326 mn pay TV homes in Asia Pacific: Casbaa
MUMBAI: The Asia Pacific region now has 326 million pay-TV homes, up 26 million from the year-ago period.

According to Casbaa estimates, backed by global data, subscription television in Asia Pacific now reaches more homes than the rest of the world (ROW) combined. Digital pay-TV subscription households now account for over 115 million homes.

China and India have spearheaded much of the growth, accounting for 90 per cent of all Asian pay-TV subscribers in 2009.

India now has 19 million digital pay-TV households, while China represents 69 million digital video connections. Overall, Asian digital penetration stands at 35 per cent across 14 markets.

Casbaa CEO Simon Twiston Davies says, "These are very encouraging figures. Much of the digital promise of the last five years is now being delivered."

Eighteen new pay-TV operators have emerged across the region in the past 18 months, Casbaa said today during its annual Convention in Hong Kong.

The list includes Reliance, Videocon and Bharti Reliance (India); Hikari TV (Japan); Korea Telecom and SK Telecom (Korea); Cignal (PLDT), G-Sat (Global Destiny), PLDT/Smart (MyTV) (Philippines); Aora-TV and Okevision (Indonesia); Top Up TV (Next Step Co.) (Thailand); VSTV (VTV/Canal Overseas), VTC (HD channels), HTV (Ho Chi Minh TV), FPT Telecom and VNPT (Vietnam National Posts & Telecom) (Vietnam); and Telecom Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Casbaa's annual pay-TV piracy survey of 15 Asia Pacific markets, conducted in association with Standard Chartered Bank, reflects the regional growth but also generating an updated estimate of $1.94 billion in annual revenue losses to the industry.

This estimate uses highly conservative assumptions. Actual totals are likely to be much higher. Last year's Casbaa piracy survey produced an estimate of $1.75 billion in annual pay-TV revenue leakage in Asia.

Evolving factors in the past 12 months include the strong growth in the legitimate pay-TV market which, inevitably, has meant more piracy; as new content is made available in more Asian languages, the stimulus to piracy increases.

"Pay-TV is becoming more attractive but that means more people want to steal," adds Twiston Davies.

As new markets open, previously hidden pockets of piracy have become apparent as in Indonesia, for instance, where the local industry and government have paid increasing attention to pay-TV signal theft in the last year. Likewise, Vietnam is going through the same process.

In some places, piracy has declined as investment in digital technology make signals more difficult to steal. Thus, piracy numbers in Hong Kong and Manila have declined as cable operators have deployed new digital transmission systems.

Tax specialists at PricewaterhouseCoopers participated in the analytical exercise, and came to the conclusion that the revenue leakage from the legitimate pay-TV industry cost regional governments at least $247 million in uncollected taxes.

The biggest revenue losers were the governments in Thailand ($76 million), Pakistan ($56 million) and the Philippines ($39 million).

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