The young man wanted to give back by taking care of his father, who was sick and stuck at home. With their prepaid SKYdirect subscription, the elder Laparan was able to have his fill of Tagalog movies on Cinema One. In time, the rest of the Laparan family became hooked on SKYdirect and now have their own favorite channels.
Rose Adana, a working mother from Ilagan City in Isabela, shared that she subscribed to SKYdirect for her children. Unlike her who wasn’t able to watch cable TV when she was younger, her children now enjoy English cartoons and even learn from Knowledge Channel’s various programs. Adana and her husband also get to bond watching basketball or romantic movies on SKYdirect. Seeing her family happy watching shows they love just takes away Adana’s stress from a day’s work.
A subscriber from Misamis Oriental shares that the first thing his balikbayan sibling bought upon arriving was a flat-screen TV and a SKYdirect kit because their mother wanted to watch channels “as clear as the moon.”
annels “as clear as the moon.” From Iloilo, a satisfied customer reports: “Kahitmaliit TV namin,sobrangnapasayakopamilyako.Ang SKYdirecttalaganagbibigayliwanagatsayasaamin.”
In nearby Aklan, another subscriber rejoices over SKYdirect’s high-definition channels that saved him from daily climbs onto the roof to adjust their TV antenna.
These are just some of the feel-good anecdotes from SKYdirect subscribers regarding the three-year-old direct-to-home (DTH) service, which blazed to the 1-million subscriber mark this March. It took a “village” of hardworking dealers, distributors, subscribers and the SKYdirect team to reach such a milestone.
Setting up SKYdirect
When SKY Cable Corporation entered the DTH market in May 2016, the oldest player had had a 15-year advantage (before fizzling out in 2017). Two other satellite TV providers had a combined head start of 16 years.
SKY had been trying to get its own DTH product off the ground for several years. Even as the company waited to be awarded its license to operate, the SKY engineering team quietly acquired materials and equipment and started building the systems needed to offer DTH.
When it was finally granted its license by the National Telecommunications Commission in late 2015, the company was more than ready to make an imprint on the DTH market.
Launched in May 2016, SKYdirect attracted wais subscribers initially with the promise of “cable na pa-load-load lang”—just like cellphones or beep cards—and allowed families to load when they are able to, without being tied to contracts and monthly fees. Postpaid plans were also introduced a couple of months later.
“There was a perception that SKY, because it was concentrated in urban areas and offered postpaid plans, was solely for the high-tier market. With SKYdirect, we were able to show that SKY is accessible to all segments of the market,” says SKYdirect head Abigail Ng Sy.
Every home a SKY home
SKYdirect does what it does because of its dream to spread “wow at saya” by reaching even more Filipinos nationwide and making every Filipino home a SKY home.
Jaja Suarez, head of the Consumer Products Group, says: “The goal is to reach every Filipino and give them access to better content experiences, meaning a wider range of entertainment including kids’ and infotainment programs, with clearer HD reception, and at a value they can afford.”
“SKYdirect’s most important role is to deliver entertainment and information to our Kapamilya in far-flung areas who would otherwise not get them via cable or terrestrial TV,” states SKY Cable Corporation president and COO March Ventosa. “We are happy to provide access to local and international news, blockbuster movies, our local ABS-CBN shows, documentaries and educational shows to Filipinos wherever they may be—from Batanes at the northernmost tip to the highlands of Benguet, to the beaches of Palawan and down south to Sulu.
Ventosa also cites the importance of SKYdirect’s partnership with Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc. led by Rina Lopez-Bautista, which dates back to 2016.
The alliance has allowed SKYdirect to support the education of children in public elementary schools through highly engaging content from Knowledge Channel in line with the K-12 program of the Department of Education.
With DTH already on the radar of Filipino consumers, SKYdirect simply sweetened the pot for more “wow at saya.” This meant offering top-rating channels as well as putting in place a robust distribution system to make SKYdirect easily accessible to customers anywhere in the Philippines.
“The LOB [line of business] and programming teams strategized on the best plans for Filipino homes. They delivered a fixed, carefully curated channel lineup that’s backed by research and ratings,” reveals Ng Sy. HBO, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and AXN are some of the top-rating sources of premium cable content that delight viewers.
In this aspect, SKYdirect had some help from the country’s no. 1 network. “The unique proposition of SKYdirect is its ability to offer high-quality, world-class content through ABS-CBN and Creative Programs Inc. with channels such as Cinema One, Jeepney TV, ANC, YeY, CineMo, ABS-CBN Sports + Action and other must-have channels that are relevant to every member of the family,” Ng Sy notes.
SKYdirect currently offers five prepaid variants with viewing options for all members of the family for as low as P99.
Suarez points out that the streamlined channel lineup meant more efficient operations, while the learning curve for distribution was “almost negligible” on the part of SKYdirect.
“We were able to tap distributors and dealers who were already knowledgeable about the business. Therefore, we were able to execute distribution very fast,” Suarez adds.
Another upside is that SKYdirect’s competitors were able to educate customers and make them appreciate the benefits of DTH.
“Ultimately, having these competitors is healthy as they provide valuable market insight and force us to continuously innovate towards services that have a lasting advantage in the marketplace,” says Ng Sy.
As the national sales head for SKYdirect, Dho Gaerlan has to ensure that the new product was available to potential customers in every part of the country. He discloses that selling SKYcable was easier because they focused only on the specific areas where it was present.
“SKYdirect on the other hand was available nationwide right from the start, so we had to be very smart in the way we promoted ourselves and spread our resources,” Gaerlan notes.
The sales team started with 35 distributors in 2016, growing the number to 55 distributors in 81 provinces by 2018. The sales head adds that employing the distributorship model was a pivot for the company.
“The distributors’ main function is to invest by buying the kits from us, which they then sell to the partner-dealers and subscribers. We talked to the dealers individually and encouraged them to carry SKYdirect.”
Growing subscriber base
To boost efficiency as they grew the subscriber base during the first year, some SKYdirect distributors covered four or five provinces, while a lone distributor took charge of an area with high market potential.
“They were out in the field literally every day, talking to dealers,” Gaerlan recalls.
In a short period, the team has almost doubled its dealership network to 1,776, covering 1,211 towns nationwide. Up to three dealers may be assigned per town depending on the household count and subscriber base.
This is one reason SKYdirect goes out of its way to foster ties with its dealer-partners, states Gaerlan.
“Unlike with our competitors, our dealers take part in our sales conferences alongside the distributors and employees. We fly them in so they can experience what it’s all about. When you talk to them, they’re happy because they feel that we value them.”
For Gaerlan, the next order of business is to widen SKYdirect’s reach even further: “Since we were successful with our distributors-dealers model, we’re now going down to the sari-saristore, electronics store level, like the telcos with their reloading stations.”
Ng Sy simply promises more “wow at saya” for SKYdirect’s current and potential subscribers: “Along with our marketing campaigns, we continuously engaged and delighted them with regular acquisition and loading promotions. We will continue to bring happiness to Filipino families and hopefully be part of 2 million homes.”
Aside from their new 2-million target, Suarez adds another “BHAG” [Big Hairy Audacious Goal] for SKYdirect: “To be able to lower the price of our box and dishes so that the service becomes even more accessible. Mas maraming masayang Pilipino, mas okay!”