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SkyLife Sees HD Taking Off in Korea

By | July 31, 2008
      [Satellite News 07-31-08] Korean Digital Satellite Broadcasting (SkyLife) expects to have 220,000 subscribers for its high-definition (HD) services by the end of the year, the company’s CTO said.
          The direct-to-home (DTH) operator, one of the biggest in Asia, launched its SkyLifeHD offering in April with 20 channels and expects to expand that to 55 by the end of 2008. SkyLife expects the HD service to help the company reach its target of 3 million subscribers, said Sung Yong Woo, SkyLife’s CTO, told Satellite News. “We are encouraging [standard-definition] viewers to convert to the HD service. As such, we expect the newly launched HD service will help us to reach this target earlier. … SkyLife will invest in HD programs and will make the best efforts to establish itself as Korea’s leading HD platform.”
          SkyLife is working with NDS on the delivery on HD services and is the first H.264 based HD service in Korea. “We have worked together with NDS in developing various services such as interactive broadcasting, [personal video recorders] and HD service with H.264 technologies. In the future, with strong collaborative ties, SkyLife and NDS might co-develop new convergence services such as satellite IP, mobile and Internet services.
          Sue Taylor, vice president and general manager of NDS Asia Pacific, believes it was vital for SkyLife to make the move to HD sooner rather than later. “HD penetration in Korea is very high. Terrestrial broadcasters are using HD. SkyLife sees this as an opportunity, and they are really going to be trying to ramp up their subscribers and this coincides with IPTV. Korea Telecom (KT) is just about to launch full IPTV services. You have Hanaro Telecom also launching IPTV. The whole of the Korean marketplace is moving because of the broadcasting bill. This is part of SkyLife’s response. They want to be part of the digital growth and not plateau at 2 million subscribers.”
          Woo also admits it is vital that SkyLife tries to exploit its early mover advantage in the HD arena. “The advantage of being an early mover is that we can take an early lead in the market,” he said. “Currently, there are 6 million households with HD-ready TVs. Due to the decline of the prices of HDTV sets, an additional 2.5 million HDTV sets are expected to be sold this year and 5 million in the following year. SkyLife has the advantage of nationwide coverage, which other cable TV and IPTV operators do not have. As such, we will be able to preempt the market with our multi-HD channel services.”
          For NDS, the deal with SkyLife is important as NDS aims to become more of a player in satellite pay-TV markets throughout Asia. Taylor hopes the company will sign at least one more deal in India this year. “India has a huge number of DTH platforms. We already have Tata Sky. Bharti is preparing to launch, while Reliance will launch at some point soon,” she said. “Then you have a number of people saying they are going to launch. We are targeting new DTH opportunities in India and hope that we can expand our current base of customers. … There are definitely deals in the pipeline on the DTH side. I would say the same for Indonesia, as this is another market to look at in terms of DTH services.”
          Taylor also sees opportunities in less heralded markets in the region. “It is also worth looking at small countries in Asia, which I think are going to move. If you look at Vietnam or the Philippines, they will be countries that will move in the six-to-18-month timeframe,” she said.

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