NBTC: Digital TV operators mulling exit as revenue erodes

NBTC: Digital TV operators mulling exit as revenue erodes

Seven digital TV channels already exited the sector earlier this year.
Seven digital TV channels already exited the sector earlier this year.

Several digital TV operators are considering exiting the sector and hope to receive compensation as they face declining revenue, says the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The measure that allowed operators to exit and be compensated ended in August, based on a Section 44 order that was invoked in April.

The order still allows the NBTC secretary-general to exercise discretion over what should be done to aid digital TV companies.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said he will discuss the matter with a legal subcommittee working on digital TV remedy measures and a solution is expected soon.

"I acknowledge that some TV operators have been affected by declining revenue, although the Section 44 order waived some burdens on operators, including remaining licence payments and broadcasting network fees, as well as the must-carry rule," Mr Takorn said.

He said TV operators are aware of the threat from over-the-top (OTT) platforms and their situations would be more critical in the face of 5G adoption.

Mr Takorn said existing digital TV operators are allowed to leave the business without any penalties, based on Section 44, but they will not receive compensation.

The Section 44 order was invoked to assist TV channels wanting to leave the sector and receive compensation.

Seven digital TV channels from six operators submitted requests to exit the industry by the May 10 deadline, leaving 15 channels in operation.

The seven channels were Spring News 19, MCOT 14, Spring 26, Voice TV 21, Bright TV 20, Channel 3 Family 13 and Channel 3 SD 28.

They received compensation that varied depending on the winning price of each licence auction and the date when they were allowed to go off the air.

The compensation was given in exchange for the spectrum the channels will return to the NBTC. The net compensation for the seven channels is 2.7 billion baht.

If two more digital TV channels exit the sector, the NBTC will get more than 2.5 MHz of bandwidth on the 700MHz spectrum range that the NBTC could add to the 5G spectrum auction, Mr Takorn said.

Digital TV licences were auctioned in 2013, but since then the business has changed rapidly amid digital disruption driven by OTT platforms.

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