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Astro’s exclusivity has ended and here comes a new challenger

Image: James Cridland

Astro had enjoyed 20 years of exclusivity as the sole satellite Pay TV provider in Malaysia. That special privilege finally ended on 28 February 2017, opening up the opportunity for other players to start their own satellite based pay TV service.

With the rise of OTT (Over-The-Top) players such as Netflix and iflix, one company believes they have a chance in challenging Astro’s foothold in the pay TV business.

According to a report, a new player by the name of Ansa Broadcast is trying to kick start a satellite pay TV service. This company was formerly known as U Television, a Berjaya company which at one time wholly owned Malaysia’s 4th telco, U Mobile. They had changed name several times but some of you might remember them as MiTV.

Launched by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2005, MiTV was supposed to challenge Astro by using IPTV over UHF instead of satellite. The set-top box costs RM1,188 with a monthly subscription of RM68/month for access to 39 channels.

In 2006, they announced a drastic move to switch to DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial) and in the following year, they kicked off DVB-H which provided mobile TV on DVB-H compatible handsets.

Image: All about Symbian

At that time, a closed group of MiTV Network users (Before U Mobile’s brand was launched) were able to watch selected TV channels on a Nokia N77 as pictured above. While it was pretty cool back then to watch live TV without buffering, it lacked sufficient content and eventually DVB-H as a mobile technology had failed to catch on. U Television had tried to relaunch their commercial TV service but we have yet to see anything concrete until today.

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Probably the best challenger to Astro right now is HyppTV and while they are adding more channels to its platform, they are still lacking top tier channels that are currently exclusive to Astro. At one point, TM had access to Astro SuperSports but that ended abruptly last year. If you want to watch live football, you have no choice but to subscribe to Astro.

In order for Ansa Broadcast to challenge Astro, they would need to overcome the same content hurdle as before. In the end, it isn’t much about technology but how they can break Astro’s monopoly on content.


Alexander Wong