Taiwan, one of Asia's most receptive pay TV markets
for international programmers, may soon reach a saturation point, the head of the island
republic's largest MSO warned.
Foreign channels that have not already landed there are
unlikely to obtain carriage on cable-TV systems, said Edward Wang, CEO of Eastern
Multimedia Group, which owns 31 cable systems and distributes 29 channels.
"It will be very difficult for any foreigners that are
not in the market to make an impact. A process of consolidation is already under
way," Wang said.
Although 80 percent of Taiwan's 4.5 million homes
subscribe to cable, with many households able to receive 80 channels, long-standing
attempts by the government to rationalize the sector will cap the total at 50 channels per
Wang explained that under the 1993 Cable TV Law, each
system is obliged to carry no more than 50 channels. Attempts to implement the provisions
of the law have been slow, with about 30 percent of systems currently holding licenses
regulated by the 1993 legislation.
Operators are allowed to remain in business while their
licenses are being scrutinized, with the process likely to end in late 1999.
Taiwanese cable-TV operators have shown that they will ax
any service that they feel is not a money-maker. Susan Wang, media director of advertising
agency Hwa Wei & Grey in Taipei, Taiwan, said cable TV attracted nearly the same
number of viewers as broadcast, but it took just 11 percent of total ad spending, compared
with broadcast TV's 45 percent.
"With advertising income so different, the operators
will be very firm about deciding what stays and what goes if the channel number is
limited. They will ax the channels with the least interest among viewers and, therefore,
the least number of commercials," she said.