SINGAPORE: StarHub axes seven more analog channels in digital move

Subscribers with analog set-top boxes can no longer view premium channels unless they upgrade to digital boxes

The Straits Times
Monday, February 4, 2008

By Alfred Siew

Cable TV operator StarHub switched off seven more analog channels last Friday, in its largest move so far to migrate its programmes to a digital service which can offer more channels in future.

The affected channels, which include Cinemax and NHK World Premium, are now being shown only on StarHub's digital service.

Viewers still using StarHub's old analog set-top boxes cannot tune in to them any more unless they swop those for the digital type.

The digital set-top box costs $4 a month to rent, but viewers signed on to selected channels or packages get the fee waived.

As of December last year, 115,000, or nearly a quarter of StarHub's 499,000 subscribers, were still using analog set-top boxes.

They can now watch only 39 channels, a number that is fast shrinking. Going over to StarHub's digital service will give them 114 channels, including new ones launched only in digital format.

StarHub began shutting down analog channels in May 2004. The seven channels axed last Friday follow the switching off of six niche channels, such as Deutsche Welle, which featured German news programmes.

Digital signals do not necessarily mean better images, unless they are broadcast in high-definition or HD.

But StarHub is expediting its transition to a fully digital service because more channels can be squeezed over cable to homes.

Shutting down analog channels enables it to recover bandwidth that can be used for future digital channels.

StarHub spokesman Caitlin Fua said the seven channels were axed because most of their viewers had already begun using digital set-top boxes.

Neither StarHub nor free-to-air broadcaster MediaCorp have said when they will shut down analog signals completely, but market watchers say it will be between 2010 and 2015.

Experts say this is fairly conservative, given that countries like the United States will go fully digital by next year.