Astro sees higher average revenue per user with completion of customers’ migration to HDTV

KUALA LUMPUR: With the completion of the migration of Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd's existing subscriber base to the B.yond high-definitiion (HD) TV platform, the company expects average revenue per user (ARPU) to possibly increase.

“We have proven our hypothesis, which is once they have the set-top-boxes (STBs), they would take up the products and services. We've seen our ARPU grow 5% year-on-year from RM89 to RM93,” said chief executive officer Datuk Rohana Rozhan.

Of the 3.4 million subscribers that it currently had, 2.2 million had already migrated to the B.yond platform. Rohana expects the migration to be complete by Jan 31, 2014.

Last year saw Astro swapping out the old STBs onto the B.yond platform to serve its customers better and enable them to take up more products and services from Astro.

The cost of swapping from the old STBs to the new ones on the B.yond platform would be contained to the financial year ending Jan 1, 2014.

This year, Astro will start incorporating the broadband ARPU from the Maxis-Astro Internet protocol TV (IPTV) joint venture, the Astro-On-The-Go ARPU that was not included in last year's financials, a la carte ARPUs and impulse ARPUs.

The tie-up with Maxis gives Astro access to 1.3 million homes, of which one million homes are already Astro customers.

“We will be selling bandwidth and the super value pack. It is a competitive package. The customer gets the option of having bandwidth either a la carte or packaging it together with Astro,” she said.

“If the pricing is attractive enough, we believe this could seriously entice existing and new customers of Astro to take up or switch to its IPTV platform,” said Alliance Research analysts.

Meanwhile, HLIB Research said it believed the IPTV package would not only drive higher ARPU through various product offerings but also increase earnings margins due to lower trasmission costs.

Together with Astro's existing tie-up with TIME Dotcom Bhd, which offers a similar IPTV service, Astro would gain access to 1.4 million households in total.

Rohana said: “Basically, Astro aims to provide customers with choice, convenience, experience and value.”

As for Astro-On-The-Go, so far, about 500,000 customers have downloaded the application.

“Phase one of Astro-On-The-Go was launched with Astro Awani and Astro Arena primarily because we knew that was what Malaysians travelling and Malaysians living abroad wanted, which was to have updates on the imminent general election,” Rohana said.

She added that Astro would start commercialising Astro-On-The-Go once the company did a lot more to understand the content needs of Malaysians travelling and living abroad.

“We don't intend to replicate exactly what we have on the Astro market, but to understand which are the segments of the market that we serve their habits and lifestyle,” she said.

Phase two of the service would see more channels and box sets being added by June 2013, which includes Astro First and Astro Best.

Meanwhile, phase three would showcase more international and regional titles.

“This year, we are renewing platform, growing our customer base, swapping out the old STBs and catering to non-Astro customers as well. Hopefully, there'd be a hockey stick impact on the growth,” she said.

Moving forward, Rohana plans to increase the number of HD channels from the current 30 to a minimum of 60 in the future.

“Next year, we'd be taking up more satellite transponder capacity so that we can not only provide back-up services for our current satellite capacity but also launch more premium HD channels,” she said.

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