Digital TV transition at a glance

With Light Network making history starting today as the first free-to-air television station to completely abandon analog transmissions, we’ll see how individual stations are faring well in this new technology.

(Note: We have not included 1seg channels in the total number of subchannels.)

ABS-CBN

At present, ABS-CBN has been leading the charge in the transition, with their ABS-CBN TVplus selling more than 2 million units since it was first put into the market in 2015, with the advantage of having exclusive channels aside from flagships ABS-CBN 2 and S+A on Channel 23 (CineMo, Yey!, Knowldge Channel, DZMM Teleradyo, and pay-per-view service KBO). It also has stations set up in Mega Manila (Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna), much of Central Luzon (Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pangasinan), Benguet, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao City. With ABS-CBN grossing as much as P30billion in ad revenues and other businesses such as film, pay TV, merchandising, aside from their traditional sources of revenue (broadcast TV and radio), ABS-CBN has the enough sources to complete the shift to digital TV way ahead of schedule.

PTV 4

PTV 4 was among the pioneers in the digital TV sphere, starting in 2009 and initially broadcasting in UHF channel 48, when it was still known as NBN 4 under the Arroyo administration (it has since been moved to UHF 42). In the latest developments under the helm of President Duterte’s PCO chief Martin Andanar and PTV GM Dino Apolonio, PTV has inked a deal with NEC of Japan to supply them with new digital transmitters and will be rolled out in Metro Manila, Baguio, Naga, Guimaras, Cebu, and Davao. Interestingly, this expansion was already planned during the Aquino administration with the inclusion of Cotabato. (Sourced from past PTV disclosures which has not yet been updated since the changing of guards from Aquino to Duterte).

TV5

TV5 has begun testing in DTT in 2011 and has spent P700 million for the transition. However, with the network in distress due to retrenchments and a change in programming strategy, hopefully we do not see a delay as MVP has enough resources to cover the costs. It has TV5 and AksyonTV on their lineup with the inclusion of Catsup which consisted of reruns of past TV5 shows and movies prior to being axed. TV5 uses UHF 51.

GMA Network

GMA Network has also started tests in 2011. It is also worth noting that this network was notoriously responsible for delaying the shift to DTT for its insistence on using DVB-T (which was tested by ABS-CBN in 2005) over the Japanese standard ISDB-T, however circumstances forced them to comply.

GMA also has released plans to produce its own set-up box which according to plans will be released this year. We’ll see whether or not this will be a success as GMA badly needs money and new investors to cope with the costs.

At present, GMA and “GMA News TV” are included in the lineup and seen on UHF 27.

Nine Media/RPN 

Nine Media/RPN is conducting low-power tests of DTT, carrying of course CNN Philippines, seen on UHF 19.

IBC 13

With time ticking IBC’s privatization is still in limbo, with interested suitors but no progress whatsoever. Rumors are that PTV intends to aid them in the digitization sphere. Should no one ever be able to succeed in the privatization process (Chavit Singson, Eric Canoy, others), IBC should be the perfect spot for the planned channels for the Muslim and Lumad communities.

Solar

Solar Entertainment conducts a low-signal test on UHF 22, with ETC and Second Avenue (seen respectively on analog channels 21 and 29) in the lineup. It has included HSN, CT (then Jack City), and Basketball TV in the past.

NET25/INC TV

The Iglesia ni Cristo’s secular and religious networks Eagle Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) and Christian Era Broadcasting Service (CEBSI) were also among the pioneers in digital TV, with GEMNET broadcasting in UHF 49, initially in DVB-T and eventually ISDB-T which was the standard adopted by the National Telecommunications Commission.

It was also the first to broadcast in full high definition. Digital test broadcasts were stopped in 2011 to pave way for the relaunch of GEM TV, later to be rebranded as INC TV on analog. Digital TV test broadcasts were resumed in 2015 but only during overnight hours (12-4 am) because the same frequency is being used for both analog and digital transmissions. Since then, the SD analog/cable feeds of Net25 and INC TV are being simulcast on the SD channels while a high-definition loop broadcast of their programming is being shown.

This setup is being increasingly unfeasible with the digital migration plan already being released, but however we do hope there’s a way to figure out this problem, either by moving to a new frequency or allocate Channel 49 entirely to DTT broadcasts as it will be more cost-effective than maintaining 2 analog stations.

Expansion in the provinces could happen later as Net25 and INCTV rely on cable affiliates.

BEAM

BEAM, which is affiliated to Globe Telecom, is also considered a heavy player in the digital sphere. It has 8 subchannels, a majority of which are home shopping blocks (O Shopping, Shop TV, TeleVShop, TV Shop, Shop Japan), the others include Radyo Inquirer, Chino Trinidad’s Pilipinas HD, and a timeshare of Pinoy How-To TV and Western Visayas-based Island Living Channel.

BEAM has also expanded its footprint to Cebu and Davao.

ZOE TV/Light Network

Again, we would like to commend Light Network for initiating the shift. It has 3 subchannels, 1 HD feed and 2 SD feeds.

DBS

Bro. Mike Velarde’s Delta Broadcasting System is pretty getting late in the game. With everyone else getting ready on the digital sphere, DBS is still only getting started in resuming analog broadcasts. They better rush before time runs out.

UNTV

UNTV is conducting test broadcasts on UHF 38. UNTV’s franchise is nominally owned by the Progressive Broadcasting Corporation but is operated by Breakthrough and Milestones Productions International (BMPI), affiliated with the Members Church of God International of Bro. Eli Soriano and Daniel Razon.

It has 3 subchannels, 2 feeds of flagship UNTV and ADDTV, airing loops of MCGI’s flagship program Itanong Mo Kay Soriano. UNTV also plans to launch a kids-oriented channel replacing the duplicate UNTV feed.

SMNI

Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) also conducts DTT test brodcasts on UHF 40 in Manila (albeit on a low signal) and their home base in Davao City (via UHF 44).

3ABN/Hope Channel

The Seventh Day Adventist Church-affiliated Gateway UHF Broadcasting conducts test broadcasts on UHF 44. It carries their flagship Hope Channel Philippines as well as simulcasts of their flagship international channels 3ABN and Hope Channel.

Other players

Rumours has it that the Catholic Media Network (CMN) intends to join the fray, so TV Maria can now also be seen on free TV. 

It remains to be seen whether regional networks (most prominent of which are CLTV 36 of Pampanga, Cebu’s CCTN 47, Butuan’s Bee TV 7, General Santos-based Brigada News TV, Zamboanga-based GBPI 11 and eMedia, Lucena-based Brodkast Southern Luzon of ConAmor, PBN Bicol) will also have plans to migrate to DTT but we do hope they have the resources to do so.

Conclusion

With the Digital TV migration plan unveiled in the sidelines of the Digital TV summit held in Feb. 14-15 which required networks to have simultaneous analog and digital broadcasts for 5 years (2018-2023) prior to shutting down analog transmissions. Through the 5-year window, the networks will have to use the opportunity to fix the remaining issues, tweak the configuarations, and expand the footprint of their digital broadcasts to ensure the entire country is prepared to make the shift.

With economic factors in consideration, more and more people will be enticed to avail themselves of the digital boxes and digital-ready sets already on the market, yet those without the capacity (PWD, senior citizens, minorities, urban poor, rural areas) be aided so they can enjoy the benfits of DTT.

Lastly, there should also be a sustained information campaign to raise awareness among our fellow countrymen, that said we can speed up the process of digitization and finally catching up with the rest of the world. 

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