Cable Calamity – Part 11

As you repeatedly state Mr Sinclair, Jamaica is in fact a poor country.  When did we come to that realisation?  We should not be charged the same or more for a reduction in channels.  That is not the consumers fault.

For too long, conglomerates like yourself have operated business on a ‘bag juice’ budget coming from the majority of consumers and have failed to give us what we can afford.  Do you think your average viewership knows what ‘GDP’ is and cares?  What they want is to relax, unwind and enjoy their cable.  Cable operators working together is how it should have been before the bull dozer mentality came into play. Yes forming an ‘association’ with the sole intent of being realistic as to the said ‘GDP’ while making an offer to the populace of fewer channels, and attractively priced packages would have been the smart thing to do.   You are correct; you cannot and should not make any attempt to operate as your North American counterparts do.

Those who can afford more would have to find an alternative option for their entertainment.  We should not have been introduced to hundreds and hundreds of channels from inception as by doing so our people became ‘hooked’ mentally to the idea of having too many varieties. Cable operators quite cunningly formed packages based on the appetites to some channels.  So the household takes out the package knowing full well, that the ability to pay will be a struggle, nonetheless, the unnecessary sacrifice will be made.  Until the Broadcasting Commission ruled, how many of us were knowledgeable of this debacle?  Funny it is, our people are usually given the details after the damage is done, while the ‘powerful’ makes their justification and way too often want us to comprehend the intricacies which often times are way ahead of the average citizen’s pay grade.

I suggest you cable operators use this opportune time to come together yes, but offer channels bearing in mind that we are indeed a ‘poor country’.  I say offer packages with as low as 20,  30 and 60 channels, not exceeding payments of J$5,000.00 per month.  Those who wish to pay more can use the satellite dish route.  It is a disgrace what is being sold to the Jamaican people from this industry.



Flow reviewing its cable pricing system — Sinclair

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large

(Jamaica Observer) Sunday, April 26, 2015    


SINCLAIR … I am going to ask customers to bear with us as we work through the issues

MANAGING Director of the merged LIME and Columbus Communications entity, Garfield Sinclair has revealed that the company will be reviewing its pricing system following the removal of 19 channels, initially, from its cable television network.

However, the review might not result in lower, or, for that matter, higher rates to the consumer.

Jamaica’s Broadcasting Commission, on Friday, ordered that cable operators begin the process of removing unauthorised channels from their networks, and gave them a maximum of five weeks to do so.

The channels, the Broadcasting Commission said, were being made available to consumers without the expressed authorisation of cable content providers in North America.

Already, questions are being asked about whether or not the cost of having cable television will drop, in light of the decrease in number of channels, but Sinclair, as head of Columbus, Jamaica’s largest supplier which trades under the Flow brand, said that there were other things to consider.

“We are looking at pricing, all the way around, in order to ensure that customer expectations match up to what we are delivering and what we are charging them for it,” Sinclair told the Jamaica Observer in an interview on Friday, following a Broadcasting Commission news conference to announce the forced change.

“While I couldn’t give a definitive answer to a customer now to say your basic plus package is going to drop by 10 per cent, for a long time, the unauthorised content aside, we have been subsidising the content that we have been providing legitimately and in an authorised way, because it is extremely expensive to obtain.

“The Jamaican GDP per capita is US$5,500 a man. We are a poor country. I cannot charge what my North American counterparts charge for the authorised content that I am delivering today. So I am subsidising that in order to provide customers with the level of service that they are getting, albeit buttressed by some of the unauthorised content.

“I am not charging what I need to charge to adequately recover what I am paying for the authorised content,” Sinclair insisted.

He said that collaboration and cooperation by local cable providers would go a far way in helping to soothe the burden on consumers and simultaneously ensure that they are provided with high-quality content when they want it.

“At some point, the content distributors and the customers will have to come to an accommodation through an educational process of what this content is really worth, and what my North American counterparts, who are richer … what they pay on average for the content we are distributing here.

“It’s not a black and white situation. In the meantime, I am going to have to ask customers to continue to bear with us as we work through the issues that involve getting them the best content available.

“To the content provider, we in Jamaica are just an ordinary sub [contractor], and I can understand their position because it costs a lot to produce that content. We can say to them, deal with us and price it to us on an industry basis, on an amalgamated number. Rather than looking to us as individual cable operators, price it based on a union of cable operators in the region. There have been ongoing discussions in this regard,” he said.

That aside, Sinclair said that getting the cable business regularised remains a priority.

“More channels are going to be discontinued going forward. We, along with the rest of the industry, are broadcasting for the public’s benefit a number of channels that are technically unauthorised. And because we are the biggest player, we are working assiduously to broadcast only authorised channels. Obviously we cannot do that in a vacuum. From a competitive standpoint, whatever we as an industry decide we will discontinue, we will. But I can’t do it because I’m the biggest player, while my competitors continue to broadcast unauthorised channels. That is the process we are engaged in now as an industry. We came up with this first 19 and we at Flow are working at replacing a lot of the content that we had to discontinue.

“The days of the Wild Wild West where we distributed every and anything to you are fast coming to an end. The pace of which we are regulating the industry is being moderated by the Broadcasting Commission in consulation with us,” he told the Sunday Observer.

Sinclair, who switched to consultation less than two weeks ago following the merger, maintained that the popularity of the channels that have been discontinued rate lowly on the list of those provided.

At this stage, he has not ruled out the discontinuing of “popular” channels, but is working in the interim to ensure that agreements with content providers are in place for all of the more popular channels that form part of the line-up.

“As we work on developing a comprehensive sort of copyright enforcement and adherence policy that allows us as a Caribbean region, part of the challenge we have is that a lot of these content providers didn’t even care about the Caribbean. They saw the Caribbean as a sort of a blip on the radar and had not contemplated or even fathom the need to create a structure, a content delivery agreement for the English-speaking Caribbean as a whole.

“They just see the world, particularly in this hemisphere as North and Latin America. They overlooked us for a long time. That gap in size has had them ignoring the fact that the English-speaking content was being broadcast.

“As the competitive environment developed and as they have been more and more attuned to what has been going on in the English-speaking Caribbean, and as the market evolves and they start to look for new revenue streams and ensure that their content is earning them maximum returns because the investment in it is huge, we are now having to be more compliant and are showing up on their radar screens a lot more frequently.

“We are going to have to comply with the content that we are distributing, but, at the same time we are going to regularise the arrangements that weren’t regularised before as a Caribbean region. While temporarily, a lot of the channels are coming off line, we are going to work hard to bring a lot of that content back on line. I would view these hiccups as not permanent situations, but transitional situations as we, as an industry become more compliant. We are going to have to compete with each other based on the legitimate, authorised content that we can afford to acquire and distribute to customers,” Sinclair said.


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