SES set for Asian expansion

Satellite operator SES is poised to invest further in its efforts to maintain its lead in the Asian market, which is predicted to grow from 2,000 channels to 9,000 by 2016, according to Deepak Mathur, Senior VP Commercial, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East at SES.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mathur said that SES was evaluating the possible acquisition of up to two additional satellites for Asia (for launch after 2014), which would represent a combined investment of about $650 million.

SES already carries the most paid direct-to-home channels in Asia, with nearly 650 channels as of June. The group serves about 20 million direct-to-home pay-TV subscribers in the region, via five of its 50 satellites.

Mathur observed that growth in Asia-Pacific is mainly driven by direct-to-home satellite-TV subscriptions, helped by growing household incomes and favourable demographics. “India makes up a large part of that. Satellite now accounts for 30 per cent of multichannel pay-TV users in India, and that is projected to grow to 50 per cent by 2016. That translates to 70 million more households.”

He described the competitive environment in the region as “somewhat unique”, noting that globally, the competition tends to be between five and six operators, but that in Asia there are also a very large number of national satellite operators, such as India’s Insat, China Satcom, Japan’s SKY Perfect JSAT, Thailand’s Thaicom, Indonesia’s PT Telkom and Indostar.

“You could take a head-on approach to competition, but we found that we bring a lot of value when we work with the national operators,” he advised, pointing out that a lot of the Asian satellite operators – except China, Japan and India – have small fleets of two to three satellites. “Their investment programs are comparatively constrained, but we have the capacity to add value to their programmes.”

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