11 Dec 2009 08:57

Broadcasters to ratchet up HDTV services

Shanghai. December 11. INTERFAX-CHINA - Chinese broadcasters and network TV operators are actively developing high-definition television (HDTV) related services, according to industry insiders on Dec. 11.

"In September alone, nine provincial satellite TV channels initiated HD transmission, bringing the total number of HDTV channels in China to 12," Li Dan, chairman of China's TV and Radio Broadcasting Association, said. Of the 12 HDTV channels currently offered, there are nine free channels and three pay TV channels.

Leading cable operators told Interfax that HDTV sets have an average penetration rate between 30 and 40 percent among Chinese households in first-tier cities, laying the foundation for the development of HDTV services, which currently have a much lower penetration rate.

Interfax spoke to leading HDTV broadcasters including Shanghai Stock Exchange-listed Beijing Gehua CATV Network Co. Ltd. and Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed Shenzhen Topway Video Communication Co. Ltd.

"We currently have approximately 70,000 HDTV users, and aim to expand this base to 300,000 by the Spring Festival holiday in February 2010, and to 1 million by the end of 2010. We expect the figure to reach 1.3 million by 2011," Beijing Gehua's deputy general manager, Kang Zhaohui, said.

With more broadcasters providing HDTV programming, an existing shortage of HDTV content, which has hindered industry development, will no longer exist, according to Xu Jiangshan, Shenzhen Topway's chief engineer.

"Topway began providing HDTV services in September and we aim to develop a HDTV programming stock of at least 20,000 hours," Xu said.

China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) has pushed domestic TV stations to increase both the production and broadcast of HDTV programming, requiring a greater proportion of HDTV programs be to be aired in proportion to regular programming, according to previous Interfax reports.

Despite progress in this aspect, insiders have indicated that the industry is still facing developmental challenges, including a capital intensive preparatory stage and the high cost HDTV set-top boxes, which prices the service out of the market for many Chinese consumers.

On average, HDTV set-top boxes are priced between RMB 1,000 ($146.39) and RMB 2,000 ($292.77).