WHEN her 1,000-peso “lifetime” cable connection courtesy of her building’s handyman went kaput, Gina (not her real name), simply went online for her entertainment and news updates. But she says she still misses watching the latest reality shows on a TV set, which is why she’s considering getting cable TV again—the legal way. The only hitch: she is hesitant to shell out for the typical subscription that seemingly offers channels from every other country, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Marlo, a computer engineer and a Michael Schumacher fan, swears he can get by with watching TV solely for the F1 Grand Prix. His wife Amie, however, insists on having her regular fix of ABS-CBN teleseryes and Pinoy movies from Star Cinema.
Fortunately, with premier cable company SKY Cable
Corp. going digital, people like Gina, Marlo and Amie now have practical and cheaper alternatives when it comes to cable TV viewing.
Founded in January 1990, the mission of SKY was to “enrich and uplift the lives of Filipino families through communication, education and entertainment.” At the same time, it aimed to become the national leader among video, voice and data service providers, and to become a company known for providing outstanding customer service, among other goals.
Three years after it started commercial cable operations in 1992, 20,000 Filipinos were subscribed to its postpaid cable TV service. With over 500,000 subscribers to date, SKY is the country’s leading cable TV service provider, a distinction that powered its foray into other services—in 2006, it rolled out SKYCable Silver Prepaid, the country’s first prepaid cable TV service; two years later came SKYBroadband, touted as the fastest residential broadband service, and SKYVoice, the lowest-priced IDD calling service in the Philippines.
As SKY leads the change once more with its venture into the brave new world of digital, expect more pioneering product and service offerings.
According to Ray Montinola, SKY
head of marketing, one benefit of going digital is that the company can offer different price tiers, “from the very low to the very high,” thus opening up new market segments for the 20-year-old company. This is possible because of the SKYCable Digibox, which came with new postpaid cable TV subscriptions in Metro Manila beginning in January 2009. The device “enables home users to receive digital cable TV signals.” The company offers the SKYCable 280 postpaid package which not only comes with a pocket-friendly price tag, but also allows customers to tweak the channel lineup as they desire to include specific channels they want to watch for a specific period. For an additional amount, Marlo the Schumi fan, for example, may add Star Sports to his lineup in time for the F1 Grand Prix, while Gina may pick only two or three additional channels in addition to the 20 that comes with the SKYCable 280 package.
In addition to SKYCable 280, subscribers may also opt for the postpaid SKYCable Platinum, SKYCable Gold or SKYCable Silver packages. The P2,000 installation fee per package includes the use of one Digibox. High-definition TV
Beyond Platinum, SKY
became the first provider to offer high-definition TV. Its SKYCable HD, which has the tagline “Clear as Real,” includes three regular channels—Discovery HD, HD History and HBO HD—and offers sports pay-per-view programs such as the current 2010 World Cup quarterfinals-to-finals package and the upcoming NCAA and UAAP basketball wars.
By leveraging on synergies with Bayan Telecommunications and parent firm ABSCBN Corp. in the Lopez Group communications sector, SKY is able to offer groundbreaking products and services. One is the iWantv online service, launched in January 2010 and free and exclusive to SKYBroadband and BayanDSL subscribers.
“iWantv is a very good example of the synergies we’re working out among the three companies. I see unique content services like this driving subscriber acquisition and retention,” Montinola said. “When you’re late, you’re working, or are a working mom, when you get home your program is already over—that’s why our ad is on that, a working mom who loves ABS-CBN teleseryes would rush home after picking up the kids from school or going overtime, pag-uwi wala na sa TV. With iWantv, now you can relax because you know you can catch up on the content. It’s unique to us and we’re really leveraging on that.”
Serving customers’ needs
He added: “While we have assets within SKY
itself, Bayan and its resources are a big help. And one of the things we’re working out are service bundles, better bundles than what you see out there in the market that will hopefully serve our customers’ needs more effectively than what competition has.”
Bayan head of corporate brand and communications John Rojo, who works closely with Montinola in the comm group, stressed: “SKY is different from what it was before. It’s much, much more than just cable. And moving forward, it’s really combining distribution and content and leading this new category.”
“Technology is evolving quickly, while price points have reached parity. The key is to find differentiation that is relevant to consumers,” Rojo said. “Clearly, what will differentiate us later on would be leveraging on content. The SKY brand is also a very, very good brand to leverage on, and of course, the service components. Those are the legs that we want to build on—the content of ABS-CBN, even the content of SKY will give us some advantage moving forward.”
But not to be forgotten amidst all these changes and positioning is the equally important detail of the company’s semantic evolution, according to Montinola.