StarHub launches Asia HD nets


SINGAPORE -- High-definition television channels from Discovery and National Geographic became the first commercial HD nets in Southeast Asia on Thursday with the launch of a new HD pay TV platform in Singapore.

The two channels will drive dominant pay TV platform StarHub Cable Vision's $9.50-a-month HDTV package.

StarHub's platform is the first of three commercial HDTV platforms the country expects to have by the end of the year, according to Lee Boon Yang, Singapore's minister for information, communications and the arts.

The other two will be from dominant telecommunications company SingTel, which is planning an IPTV platform, and the country's sole free-TV broadcaster, MediaCorp. Neither has disclosed details of their plans.

Speaking at the StarHub HD launch, Lee said that local production of HD content should double from last year's 100 hours to 200 hours this year.

Lee said the increase in HD activity in Singapore "confirms the growing demand for HD content. It is an affirmation that broadcasters see a compelling business case in offering commercial HDTV services."

Subscription targets for StarHub HD were not disclosed. Industry estimates are that the new HD package will attract between 2,000 and 5,000 subscribers in the first year.

In June, Singapore had between 100,000 and 200,000 HD-ready television sets, according to figures from the Media Development Authority of Singapore.

StarHub Cable Vision has about 480,000 subscribers (43% penetration) and almost 100 channels. Digital cable services for the quarter ending Sept. 30 were up 82% to 291,000 households. Digital platform customers now make up 61% of the company's total cable base.