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Digital TV hits Cambodian homes

Vora Ouk, vice CEO of Cambodia’s first digital TV provider, talks in his office in Phnom Penh.
Vora Ouk, vice CEO of Cambodia’s first digital TV provider, talks in his office in Phnom Penh this week. PHA LINA

Digital TV hits Cambodian homes

ONE TV launched as Cambodia’s first digital TV provider in September to great fanfare, and saw a 20 to 25 per cent growth in customers every month. Vice CEO Vora Ouk wants ONE TV to be a role model in digital TV for Cambodia as the country shifts to a new network platform. Ouk sat down with the Post’s Laura Ma at the ONE TV office to discuss the provider’s plans.

What were some considerations behind bringing digital TV to Cambodia?
It was a logical choice to start ONE TV. As we’re in an ASEAN country, we had to switch from analog to digital TV in the next few years. In choosing the system, we decided on a DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial) transmission system and a set-top box because we already had the infrastructure and content in place from the Royal Group. Considering Cambodia’s frequent rain showers, DTH (Direct-to-home satellite system) would not be suitable for us to invest in. Satellite capacity is also very expensive and the signal can be unstable when it rains.

What were some of the big challenges when starting ONE TV?
TV channels and human resources. Not all TV channels are ready to move from analog to digital because they’re lacking finance and technology. The Cambodian government has actually delayed the target [to change to digital TV] for Cambodia until 2018 because we don’t have the same level of affordability to switch by 2015 like other ASEAN countries. Also, we didn’t have very [well-trained] people from the beginning. Most of our recruits are from the telecom industry, because mobile networks are very similar to the digital television systems. There’s no broadcasting school or training available for digital television, so we had to retrain and coach them in the digital television industry.

How does ONE TV compare to cable TV?
We offer more flexibility in our packages, in terms of price and content. Our packages range from $4 for 27 channels to $10 for 66 channels. The box at the moment is $26. Cable TV packages tend to have limited variety and costs. We are better able to manage our programs because they are digital. Offering programs like HBO gives us an edge because other providers don’t have that. At the moment we have 68 channels, by October we will have 80 channels. Our set-top box is unique because it has simple built in games and a Karaoke channel. ONE TV is also much easier to set up; it’s a plug-and-play technology. Next month we are offering free delivery service and free installation of the set-top box. We also have a different payment approach that is more convenient compared to traditional paid TV. We use pre-paid systems like Wing, scratch cards and banks like Acleda to buy top-up service.

What is your service coverage?
We can accommodate coverage for 70 per cent of Cambodia, in nine provinces. Not only are we the first on terrestrial network, ONE TV is the only nationwide company. In using the set-top box, our service is more reliable than cable because it’s less likely to lose signal from blackouts. We are improving the quality of coverage as well by adding more transmitters in Phnom Penh.

How is ONE TV doing on the market?
Since launching in September 2012, we have had some very strong achievements. We are growing approximately 20-25 per cent every month, which is faster than we expected. We are gaining on existing operators, who have been around for more than 15 years. I can’t disclose a number, but we are in a good position of growth. We target the mass market with affordability, so our market is growing.

What will you be offering in the near future?
We are starting a VAS, a Value Added Service, in October. It will allow customers to chat over TV as a one-way push communication. It’s not a two-way interactive TV yet though. Viewers would be able to subscribe to a newspaper, for example, and view it on their TV. They can also use the set-top box account, like a phone number, to send messages that will show up on the receiver’s TV.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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