Pay TV needs stronger channels in Vietnam

In the 10 years since its inception in Vietnam, the pay TV industry has enjoyed spectacular growth, driven largely by the country's impressive economic expansion. The Ministry of Information and Communications estimates that out of the 22 million TV subscribers at the end of 2012, about million subscribed to pay TV.
In the 10 years since its inception in Vietnam, the pay TV industry has enjoyed spectacular growth, driven largely by the country's impressive economic expansion. The Ministry of Information and Communications estimates that out of the 22 million TV subscribers at the end of 2012, about million subscribed to pay TV.

However, to develop a growth-oriented pay TV market, there must be clearer legislation, transparent enforcement mechanisms and further education for Government, industry and consumers. In addition, pay channel providers must provide good service and reliable content.

Viet Nam News examines the issue.

* Nguyen Ha Yen, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Broadcasting and Electronic Information Management, Ministry of Information and Communications:

The development of the pay TV industry has obviously given people more choices for entertainment and information, meeting growing demand. The market has seen the appearance of four types of pay television: subscription-based television services provided by analog and digital cable, satellite, digital terrestrial and internet television.

However, the industry's development has been largely fragmented and unsustainable. Previously, the pay TV industry was regulated in a similar fashion as the general media, which means that only content and information were regulated. There were no regulations concerning market development, infrastructure, technology or services.

* Nguyen Chi Hien, university lecturer, Cau Giay district, Hanoi:

Several years ago, I could watch all matches of the Premier League easily since it was available on VTV channels. Now, it's impossible since I have to sign up for K+, which costs about another 500,000 VND (24 USD) a month in addition to the cost of equipment. In addition, the signal sometimes goes out for no reason. I've also asked my family members not to buy anything from advertisements on pay TV channels since I've heard they don't sell reliable products.

This calls for a new mechanism. In 2011, the Prime Minister approved a decision that would enhance regulation on the reliability of information, service quality, and rights and responsibilities of providers.

In August, the Government approved a plan to develop local radio and television services by 2020, which forecasts that 60-70 percent of households nationwide will use pay television services by that time.

As we're planning for a complete digital switch by 2020, spurring the development of pay television is important. We are working on better regulating the pay television industry in many areas, such as ensuring that information provided by pay TV channels is reliable, balancing foreign-funded and domestic channels and tightening licensing procedures for providers. We estimate that by the end of this year, the pay TV market will have about 20 service providers.

* Tran Phuong Lan, head of the Competition Supervision and Management Committee, under the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Competition Management Department:

A handful of local businesses like Saigontourist Cable Television (SCTV) and Vietnam Cable Television (VCTV) dominate the market. In 2012, SCTV had 40 percent of the market share, while VCTV controlled 30 percent. Most of the market share is concentrated in State-owned businesses that belong to major TV stations.

The department has noted that soaring copyright fees have pushed cable subscription fees considerably higher, especially the rights to broadcast major international football competitions.

Unhealthy competition has also marred the local market as some providers use their channels to criticise rivals or conspire with owners of residential zones or houses to obtain the exclusive rights to supply cable television services in those areas, creating unfavorable conditions for customers.

Often customers really have no choice, as some enterprises take advantage of their regional monopoly to force their partners to sign sole contracts with them.

Those activities are not regulated in the Law on Competition so there is no way to legally prevent them. The committee has made a report assessing competition in various sectors, including the pay TV industry. The Competition Management Department will propose that the Law on Competition be revised to stop pay TV service providers from paying residential area investors for the right to offer exclusive services.

The Vietnam Pay TV Association's role should be enhanced so it can act as a bridge between enterprises in the sector. State management agencies should tighten inspections of pay TV enterprises' services and quality.

* Vuong Ngoc Tuan, deputy general secretary of the Vietnam Standard and Consumer Association (VINASTAS):

There's no doubt that competition among pay TV providers has increased. As to whether these instances of competition are healthy, we must let industry insiders or administrators make that judgment. However, we notice that the rights of consumers have been neglected in several cases, especially when it comes to dealing with advertisements.

Companies pay for ads and pay-TV providers do not verify the information before broadcasting it. moreover, they are often uncooperative when consumers file complaints.

Across the country, the association's branch offices have received many complaints by consumers who did not receive as many HD channels as agreed and saw channels cut off without explanation. Many companies also acted unscrupulously by marketing products without origin, not allowing consumers to see products before receiving them and changing the address of the vendors on their website so consumers would not be able to contact them.

After receiving these complaints, we want to get the businesses to support consumers. In many cases, these companies try hiding their corrupted business practices. That means we need cooperation from pay-TV providers, but they have not generally been cooperative.

As the number of pay TV providers constantly increases and advertising channels that exclusively aim to sell products multiply, government authorities and relevant agencies must increase inspection on their operations and commercial activities to protect consumers. Consumers can't be left out in this industry.-VNA

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