Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 21st 2016 Contents JANUARY 21 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG5
Even as competition among
local television service
providers intensifies, Bernard
Pantin, general manager of
DirecTV, is confident the qual-
ity of his company s products
and services gives it competitive advantage
over its rivals in the T&T market.
Additional competition in the sector comes
with the recent launch of Digicel Play and the
expected entry of a new Massy company into
the market. However, Pantin said competition
is not new for DirecTV which has been com-
peting locally and regionally for a long time.
He said brand strength and customer loyalty
allow the company to compete in different
In an interview at DirecTV s Chaguanas
headquarters, Pantin said the company---which
has 225 employees in T&T and the Caribbean
and has been operating for 19 years---does not
intend to change any of its strategies to respond
to increased competition.
"We will focus on the areas that have
brought us second place position for the last
15 years in the market and we intend on keeping
"If you look at the profile of our customer
base, in the first ten years you would say that
it tended to be a high-end customer base. As
time went by, we have more middle-class cus-
tomers. Within the last two years, when we
introduced our prepaid product, we think we
are now dominating the low-income market
in terms of new customers."
Prepaid television costs $159.39 a month
and there is no monthly bill as the customer
has the flexibility of being able to top-up and
recharge the service.
"Everyone is competing in that $450 to
$500 range. Yes, they are offering broadband
in addition to pay television. We are focused
on what we do best, which is, pay TV and we
are not trying to get that much money from
our customer. We are giving the customer
options to choose from."
Pantin said increased competition in the
sector may result in customers switching from
one provider to another and workers switching
from one company to the next. Quoting from
a study done by DirecTV, Pantin said almost
40 per cent of the people who signed up for
the company s prepaid service were former
Flow customers. He is predicting a lot more
switching in the coming months, especially
after Massy enters the market.
"Three to six months from now, after Digicel
is in a few homes, Flow is going to try to get
them back and then Massy is going to come
on and the same households are going to think:
what I going to do in terms of broadband and
Pantin said a price war is possible as there
are too many players jostling for share of a
small market and that will make it "a little
more difficult for the broadband providers
because they are laying a lot of fibre. It is very
He said: "I cannot see, just from the outside,
how they will be able to sustain that kind of
investment if there is a price war. I would not
be surprised if there is a price war among
those three or four providers looking to offer
the same services."
Bernard said a price war will not affect
DirecTV because the company does not need
fibre to operate its service.
But, he said, regulation in this market is a
challenge with so many players in one market.
With more than 30 radio stations, more than
nine television stations and 12 paid TV providers,
"there are very few regulators in a country our
size who have to deal with that many players."
Pantin said very few markets with 400,000
households can sustain 12 players. He expects
that, eventually, half of the providers are going
to go away, especially the small ones in the
"We (T&T) could be facing a similar situation
to 1990/1991 where we had the expansion of
TV. Some survived and some did not. I think
this could be a very challenging market."
Pantin praised recent efforts by the Telecom-
munications Authority of T&T to have local
cable television providers remove illegal channels
from their line-up.
"The facts are simple. The representatives
of NBC and Fox visited T&T in 2015 and made
it abundantly clear to all concerned that they
have not given any permission to anyone to
broadcast their signal," he said.
"There is no provider who can show a con-
tract saying they have permission to broadcast
those channels. If you want to broadcast some-
thing you should own the right to do it."
Pantin said there has not been full compliance
with TATT s order for removal of unauthorised
channels. He said Lorac, a Canadian satellite
provider, broadcasts channels which TATT
"Lorac is distributing those signals into the
Caribbean and they are being used in different
places throughout the Caribbean but the people
who are the originators of the feed made it
abundantly clear they had not given permission
for their signal to be transported into the
Caribbean and used that way," he said.
Pantin warned that any provider carrying
the channels Lorac is offering can face legal
He said customers now have many more
choices: "I am seeing a lot more effort at local
content and production. Some of the channels
have taken off on ideas of what you are seeing
in the United States but it s still produced
locally and done locally. I think that will be
good for the development of TV stations in
T&T. Local TV stations have always felt a little
under attack because of the choices available
on 90 other channels.
"Local television is starting to recover some
of the lustre of many years ago. What I would
like to see is assistance to propel local con-
He said DirecTV has opened a gateway for
T&T channels to be seen in other parts of the
Caribbean. Depending on the copyright laws,
he said, local channels could eventually be seen
in Latin America, so he is urging CNC3 and
TV6 to offer more local content.
"My goal is, by the end of 2016, to have
TV6 and CNC3 offered to the Caribbean and
even wider. We are open to help them do that,"
Pantin said.--- Nadaleen Singh
Cable price war looms
DirecTV's Pantin: Too many players in a small market
general manager of DirecTV
PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
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