FIRST OUTSIDE METRO MANILA
Always a trend setter, Mindanao’s pioneer cable television operator brings Cagayan de Oro City into a new era with the launching of its digital television platform, the first in the country outside Metro Manila on July 8, 2009.
Parasat’s move into the digital age was prompted by the June 12, 2009 switchover in the United States into a total Digital Terrestrial Television (DTTV) platform, shutting down over a half century of analog television signals for good as mandated by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 passed by the US Congress.
Since digital signals carry more data in lesser space than analog signals, TV stations can now do multicasting, or broadcasting many digital channels in the same channel formerly used by one analog channel, freeing up valuable bandwith for additional wireless broadband applications. Digital TV can also deliver future interative video and data services not possible with analog TV.
The US became only the ninth country to undertake a complete digital switchover, following pioneer European countries Germany and Belgium. In the Philippines, SkyCable became the first CATV operator to make the transition to digital TV with its SkyCable Platinum digital platform which offers over 100 channels for a monthly subscription of around P1,500.00.
Competition is fierce among the three market leading platforms: ATSC (US), ISDB (an improved ATSC from Japan) and Europe’s Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) adopted by Parasat.
“We have received and commissioned our digital TV equipment from the United States,” said Engr. Elpidio M. Paras, president and chief executive officer of Parasat Cable TV, Inc. one of the first cable television (CATV) companies in Mindanao. “With digital television, we can have higher quality video signals with lesser bandwith, and hopefully have high definition TV channels online before the end of the years.”
If plans of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) push through, the Philippines will have an all digital television system by 2015.
Parasat will use the 98-channel all-digital TVS Challenger Platform for transitioning from an analog to digital TV service.
“By July 10, we will transition some 15 of our foreign cable TV channels to the new digital standard,” Paras said. “We will maintain our current analog packages simultaneous with our new digital tiers. But to make way for our new digital channels, all channels with foreign content will be exclusively available in our new Digital Packages.”
Subscribers will have 24 months to transition to the digital platform but those choosing to upgrade now will get 28 additional channels immediately and have over 100 channels by the end of the year.
The Digital Lite package will cost only P700 monthly but will carry all the programs previously offered in the 70 analog channel International package. The Digital Basic channel will cost only P250 more for an additional 12 channels including Animax, Discovery Turbo, Crime & Investigation, Fashion TV (fTV), Discovery Science, VIVA Cinema, SciFi and AXN Beyond.
The top of the line Digital Premium service will only cost an additional P200 per month for an additional seven premium channels on top of all channels available in Digital Lite and Basic: National Geographic Music, National Geographic WILD, National Geographic Adventure, MGM Channel, The History Channel, The Biography Channel and a EuroSport Channel.
Within this year, Parasat will launch additional channels, to include pay-per-view (PPV) services, High Definition HD programs and Near-Video-on-Demand (NVOD). Subscribers who have bought the latest HD ready flat screen LCDs, LED TVs and Plasma sets will now enjoy the best features of their monitors using Parasat’s digital platform.
NVOD is a pay-per-view consumer video technique used by multi-channel broadcasters using satellite and cable television. Multiple copies of a program are broadcast at short time intervals (typically 10-20 minutes) providing convenience for viewers, who can watch the program without needing to tune in a scheduled point of time.
Parasat began offering CATV services in Cagayan de Oro City in 1991 and now also serves the adjacent municipalities of Opol, Tagoloan and Villanueva in Misamis Oriental. It has affiliates in the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia in Bukidnon and San Carlos, Negros Occidental. It is one of the remaining independent CATV companies following the consolidation of the industry into some big players and medium-sized independent operators.