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Cable Technology Feature Article

November 20, 2013

Macau Bets on De-monopolizing the Cable TV Market

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

On the tiny island of Macau, formerly a Portuguese colony, gambling is the economic engine. Situated within a ferry ride of Hong Kong, jetsetters come from far and wide to play baccarat and poker, reveling in an atmosphere of luxe indulgence. But the island’s TV ecosystem lags its James Bond-tastic other attributes, being predominantly made up of over-the-air signaling and a single cable MSO. The government there is however plotting a new market framework, rolling the dice on what competition could bring to consumers there.

The Telecommunications Regulation Bureau in that country said that Macau Cable TV’s monopoly contract expires in April, paving the way for the auction of new cable television licenses sometime after September 2014. The bureau has commissioned the University of Macau to produce a report and a thorough list of suggestions for the long-term modernization and development of the market by then. An interim report is due in January, and Macau is also looking for public comment on where to go from here.

The TV market broke down recently after it was revealed that over-the-air broadcasters, which command 70 percent of the market, were carrying copyrighted content from the cable nets provided by Macau Cable TV, without consent. A prolonged court battle emerged, with public antenna companies decrying the lack of competition on the island and the resulting negative impact on consumers. That’s a standpoint that the government agreed with—like Hong Kong, Macau is a special administrative region of China, which enjoys capitalist-friendly self-rule.

Eventually, the Court of Second Instance on the island gave its government 90 days to stop OTA broadcasters from illegally relaying cable content, and ordered that Macau Cable TV should be paid $25 million in compensation for copyright infringement. The government is appealing the decision.

In the meantime, the new licenses will “no doubt” open up the cable market for competition, and “may result in more investment and more diversified services,” it told Macau Business Daily. “More choice and more stable services are expected,” it said. Macau Cable TV will be considered for contract renewal, the bureau said, but is also dedicated to uncovering “feasible” ways to change the television market.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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