Singapore's Mio TV goes live

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SINGAPORE -- Singapore's dominant telecommunications company, SingTel, on Friday launched Mio TV, the country's first mass-market IPTV platform, with three new services from Sony Pictures Entertainment, three new BBC channels and a strong focus on high-def content from U.S. programmer Voom HD.

The service will offer 24 linear channels, nine on-demand channels and six categories of video-on-demand programming.

SPE's channels include a new English-language general entertainment channel, Sony Entertainment Television, as well as two on-demand channels, Pix and Pix Thriller.

In addition, Sony Pictures Television International agreed to its first day-and-date on-demand deal that will give the platform access to select SPTI movies on the same day they are released on DVD.

The 24-hour SET channel (not to be confused with Sony's Indian channel of the same name) targets 20- to 35-year-old career women and will air drama, comedy, reality and infotainment shows.

Pix and Pix Thriller will offer 20 movies a month -- including such titles as "Charlie's Angels," "Spider-Man," "Godzilla" and "Panic Room" -- for S$13 ($8.55) per channel. Subscribers can watch the film as many times as they want to.

20th Century Fox and Disney-ABC International Television Asia Pacific also have licensed video-on-demand content to Mio TV, which has divided its VOD platform into six categories.

The VOD categories range from Korean drama, which costs S$1 (66 cents) per episode, to same-day DVD release titles, which are S$7.49 ($4.96) per movie. U.S. studio blockbusters cost S$6.42 ($4.25) each, and the rate for the latest Asian movies is S$5.35 ($3.54) per title.

U.S.-based Voom HD will provide three high-def linear channels (Voom HD, Equator HD and Sling HD) to Mio and one on-demand channel, WorldSport HD.

Sling HD, dedicated to action sports, computer gaming and youth culture, is a joint project with Singapore production house Mega Media.

BBC Global Channels' three new services -- BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle and kids channel CBeebies -- will be carried on the new platform when they launch July 29.

Mio TV also includes the first Cantonese movie channels in Singapore, where broadcasting authorities have traditionally kept Chinese dialects off screen in favor of Mandarin.

The two Cantonese channels are being supplied by Hong Kong's Mei Ah Entertainment, which plans to produce another 100 movies in the next five years, according to Mei Ah chairman, Li Kuo Hsing. This will bring the library to 700 hours.

Mio TV will be available to 85% of Singapore's 1 million households from Day 1, according to SingTel's Singapore chief executive, Allen Lew.

The telecom, which dominates the domestic market, clearly has no plans to repeat its earlier failed attempts at delivering PC-based television services. "We're not used to playing second to anyone, especially not in the Singapore market," Lew said.

Mio TV is part of SingTel's quad-play suite of services that includes fixed line, mobile, broadband and TV. Viewers will be able to sign up for Mio TV without being SingTel broadband subscribers.

In addition to introducing on-demand television programming to Singapore for the first time, the new platform breaks the virtual pay TV monopoly held by communications company StarHub, which offers about 120 channels.

StarHub has about 490,000 pay TV subscribers -- a household penetration of 43.6%.

SingTel's minimum monthly charge for Mio TV is S$16 ($11). Rival StarHub's entry level rate is S$24 ($16).
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