The Argentinean government passed legislation, affirmed by the country's Supreme Court last year, that would break up Cablevisión's parent company, Grupo Clarín,into six separate units. The law, in part, says that no company can control more than 24 cable licenses and/or cover more than 35% of subscribers (Portada Online). It has not yet been determined how this will all shake out.
In the meantime, Simón Tadeo, processes manager for Cablevisión Argentina, answered a few questions for BTR about cable and broadband in his country.
How has Argentina been able to achieve such a high pay TV penetration rate in comparison with the Latin American market as a whole?
Cable TV developed in Argentina 50 years ago. Actually, this year, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary. Our country has a vast extension, and at the beginning the TV broadcasters were only located in important cities. Therefore, only less than 40% of the territory was covered by TV. Then in the smaller towns and villages, cable TV was developed by entrepreneurs that brought the idea and the technology from the USA. This made a tradition for pay TV services in our country. Bigger cities, state capitals, and even Buenos Aires did not have cable services until 1980, approximately.
Please tell me a little bit more about the market today. Who do you see as your main competition in pay TV? What percentage of Argentinians have HDTVs? How many HD channels do you offer?
Our main competition in pay TV is DirecTV and many other cable MSOs in the same geographic regions. About 52% of Cablevisión Argentina subscribers own HDTVs. We offer Cablevisión Clásico: 71 channels; Cablevisión Digital: 71 channels, 49 digital channels, 21 Premium channels, 10 PPV channels, 50 audio channels, 6 radios, 4 portal channels (sports, documentaries, child, movies & series); and Cablevisión HD: all the rest plus 30 HD channels and VOD.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing you as a pay TV provider?
To deploy in the next years an IPTV product, that includes a full new TV guide, with the best content, multiscreen services and great apps for our customers; to be able to give our clients wireless products; and to be leaders in customer experience.
What is the regulatory environment like in Argentina for pay TV and broadband services?
Nowadays the regulatory environment in Argentina is very complex. We believe that the cable MSOs do not have the same opportunities as the incumbent telecom companies or the satellite competitors. We believe that there should be a new telecommunications law that allows cable providers to offer (land)line phone, mobile phones and mobile broadband.
How important is a bundled package or triple play of services (phone, cable, Internet) in Argentina? What percentage of subscribers order more than one service from you?
Most of our customers order our digital TV and high-speed broadband combo. Unfortunately, we have the technology to offer IP phone, but due to a complex regulatory environment, we don´t have enough phone numbers for a massive offer.
Do you offer or are you considering offering VOD or multiscreen services?
Our product “Cablevisión On Demand” is the first and only VOD service in Argentina with a library of more than 5,500 hours. We offer free VOD (FVOD), subscription VOD (SVOD) and transactional VOD (TVOD) content; and we are launching by the end of May our OTT access platform called “Cablevisión Play," which integrates other OTT platforms (Fox Play, Fox Sports Play, Moviecity Play, ESPN Play, Hot Go, TNT Go, Space Go).
What role does mobile broadband vs. fixed broadband play in Argentina?
Argentineans prefer fixed broadband with WiFi networks for their devices because these offer a better experience than 3G mobile broadband. Most of the mobile phones have 3G access, but their customers are always searching for a WiFi network. That is why Fibertel (Cablevisión's broadband brand) deployed a network of WiFi spots in many restaurants, bars and shop in Buenos Aires called Fibertel Zone with more than 600 deployed points.