A new Russian-Cambodian digital satellite television service plans to have 400,000 subscribers in the next two years with 60 channels in Khmer, English, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese and other languages.
The venture between Russia’s General Satellite and Cambodia’s Royal Group was soft-launched last night at Sofitel, with a planned start-up in September and a system using stored smart cards, descrambler boxes and antennas.
The Royal Group Chairman Kith Meng was joined by Russian Deputy Minister of Telecoms and Mass Communications Alexey Malinin and General Satellite President Andrey Tkachenko along with Cambodia’s Minister for information Khieu Kanharith to present the new TV service that intends to cover 70 per cent of Cambodia’s population with 60 channels using “digital wireless” technology.
Spokeswoman Polina Potapova said bundles including antenna, de-scrambler box and stored value cards would be distributed all around Cambodia in three content packages aimed at various viewers with different prices and the channel choices.
“This is the first nationwide digital terrestrial platform and it is important for both the population and the government. This is affordable entertainment with digital quality and Russian technology,” Potapova said. “We have a very aggressive plan for launching services.”
Kith Meng said the launch of the OneTV joint venture, under the company Royal Media Entertainment Corporation Limited, was well-timed because of Cambodia’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year.
“General Satellite is the biggest player in Russia with more than 10 million subscribers and we have been negotiating with them for two years,” Kith Meng said. “What’s most important is the digital platform and the content.”
Kith Meng said that because of OneTV’s respect for the intellectual property of channels like HBO, BBC, MTV, The History Channel, Bloomberg and others, more foreign direct investment would be attracted to Cambodia.
“We are licensed by HBO and all the other programs. Cambodia is not in isolation and we are part of the international community. We are part of ASEAN. We have all the licences covered," Kith Meng said.
"We are part of ASEAN and our respect of intellectual property is the key to attracting more manufacturing to Cambodia and more foreign direct investment. The key to the success of prepaid TV is the content,” he added.
In the agreement, Royal Group controls the content.
General Satellite President Andrey Tkachenko said the business plan called for 400,000 subscribers by the end of 2014.
“I’m very sure we will have complete success,” Tkachenko said. “To our mind Royal Group is most powerful and most famous in Cambodia. I hope we can make expansion to other markets after our first success here. We believe it is very possible.”
Among the 60 channels in three groups of packages, ranging in price as low as US$3, Russian language and culture will be among the choices offered.
The presence of Russian Deputy Minister Malinin and others from the Russian government showed that it was more than merely a commercial venture; it was also a way to re-connect Cambodians to the Russian language.
“I know a lot of Khmer people who would actually like to hear and see the Russian language,” Potapova said. “We’re still working on more Russian channels in the packages and to bring in some Russian culture here, because there is a demand for it here as well.”
Potapova said she would not reveal the final prices for the content packages yet, but they would be affordable.
“All the content is legal and has been approved to go for official launch. In terms of the delivery of the contents,” she said.
“The Russian Vice Minister of Communications here in Cambodia shows a good sign of connection between our two countries and I believe that it will bring more opportunity and more bilateral relations between the two countries,” Kith Meng said.
Current plans include a full launch in mid-September followed by expansion in October to major Cambodian cities.
“We will cover 70 per cent of the country with clear digital pictures and sound. I believe this is what the customers are looking for,” Kith Meng said.
Spokeswoman Potapova said Royal Group’s network of towers would be used for connectivity in the venture.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]