CTH set for final whistle

CTH set for final whistle

EPL broadcaster likely to close this month

CTH chairman Wichai Thongtang (left) greets GMM Grammy chairman Paiboon Damrongchaitham at a media event in July 2014. CTH, the pay TV operator that won the broadcast rights to English Premier League football, is expected to shut down soon. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
CTH chairman Wichai Thongtang (left) greets GMM Grammy chairman Paiboon Damrongchaitham at a media event in July 2014. CTH, the pay TV operator that won the broadcast rights to English Premier League football, is expected to shut down soon. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

CTH Plc, the loss-ridden pay TV operator owned by lawyer and veteran investor Wichai Thongtang, is likely to close its doors by the end of this month.

A source at PPTV, which had an English Premier League (EPL) football sublicence from CTH from August 2015 to May 2016, said CTH has losses of almost 10 billion baht and will lay off its staff of 100 in the next two weeks.

CTH's top executives have resigned and the ailing company can no longer survive, according to a former employee.

"My friends have been told to leave the company but they are not sure whether some of them will be hired by the other companies under Mr Wichai's business umbrella," the ex-employee said.

Mr Wichai, CTH's major shareholder, could not be reached for comment.

CTH has failed to compete in the pay TV sector even after securing broadcast rights for the popular EPL for the last three seasons.

The company could not attract enough sponsorship or subscribers. Poor financial performance drove CTH to sell sublicences for the EPL and Euro 2016 football tournament to other TV operators. BEC World Plc, the operator of Channel 3, is broadcasting Euro 2016 matches on free TV.

Last week, CTH announced it would cease its content supply via the KU-band satellite system from Thaicom Plc on Aug 1.

Supinya Klangnarong, a broadcasting commissioner at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said the end of content supply by CTH would hurt a lot of customers.

The CTH case will be considered by the NBTC's board meeting today, with representatives from the Office of the Consumer Protection Board attending to assess measures to help affected customers.

Early this year, CTH ended its content supply including EPL matches to GMM Z, RS Plc and PSI Holdings' set-top box customers.

It is reported that most CTH customers cancelled their subscriptions after the end of the 2015-16 EPL season last month.

CTH made its debut in the pay TV business by winning the bidding for EPL broadcast rights by paying almost 10 billion baht in late 2012, beating TrueVisions, the previous rights holder.

CTH vowed to offer Thai football fans EPL games at affordable prices via its cable TV network.

Mr Wichai and partner Yingluck Vacharaphol, the Thai Rath newspaper heiress, claimed CTH had a big collaboration with small cable TV operators nationwide.

However, it could not draw a big number of subscribers to its EPL packages due to a lack of service readiness and experience. Its cable TV network was not ready for its subscribers and many customers were told to install satellite dishes to watch EPL matches.

CTH's business model was to build its nationwide cable TV platform by pooling networks and customer bases owned by provincial operators.

Last year, CTH dropped its contracts with 173 provincial cable TV operators and switched to use the pay TV network of GMM Z.

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