Digicel turns major content provider following cable TV acquisitions

Digicel turns major content provider following cable TV acquisitions

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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DIGICEL has bought a majority stake in the parent company of regional sports broadcaster, SportsMax.

The deal to purchase controlling interest in St Lucia-based International Media Content (IMC), also gives the regional telecommunications firm a toehold in the North American market through CEEN-TV, which targets the diaspora in The US Tri-State area and in Canada .

SportsMax is currently available in 23 countries in the Caribbean.

Digicel operates in 32 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific, but not in The Bahamas, St Marteen, US Virgin Islands or Dominican Republic where IMC's sports content is currently offered.

Last year, SportsMax launched its 24-hour Spanish language channel, CDN SportsMax, in the Dominican Republic, where it provides similar content to SportsMax plus Major League Baseball.

The move to acquire IMC comes on the heels of Digicel's entry into the cable TV market with recent acquisitions in Anguilla, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nevis and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The latest subscriber TV service to be bought by the telecommunications firm is Telstar.

Digicel plans to build out an islandwide digital cable and home broadband network within three years.

The acquisition of Telstar and the islandwide expansion of its cable footprint is a strategic move to position the telecommunications firm to enter the subscriber TV market; push its broadband Internet business; and eventually offer fixed-line services, said the chief executive officer of Digicel Jamaica.

Mobile telecommunications is already at high levels of saturation. Jamaica has a mobile phone pentration rate of over 110 per cent.

Telstar, a licensed subscription television (STV) company which also provides broadband and VoIP services, currently services sections of St Andrew and St Catherine. Operations will have to expand to a further 12 parishes across the country.

The cable and broadband infrastructure also forms a critical part of Digicel's plans to aggressively target fixed-line customers once the government approves local number portability (LNM), according to Digicel Jamaica CEO, Barry O'Brien.

Locally, Digicel will face stiff competition from Columbus Communications, which trades as Flow in Jamaica.

Columbus holds the lion's share of the subscriber TV market in the island. Its network passes approximately 310,000 homes, according to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR). There are an estimated 850,000 dwellings islandwide.

Flow also holds an estimated 48 per cent of fixed line broadband subscriptions across the island, with LIME claiming the remaining 52 per cent.

But the acquisition of a major regional content provider might give Digicel an edge in Jamaica and in the other regional markets, where it will compete with Columbus in cable and broadband.

IMC content includes Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, West Indies cricket, the Indian Premier League and the IAAF Grand Prix.

It has also been responsible for the broadcast of major international events such as the FIFA World Cup tournaments since 2006, including this summer's event, and the 2012 London Olympics.

"As a complete communications solutions provider, it's all about ensuring our customers enjoy access to the best multimedia content on the best devices via the very best network and that we meet all of their communication, entertainment and networking needs," said Digicel Group CEO, Colm Delves. "SportsMax represents the perfect blend of sports entertainment and infotainment with a Caribbean flavour and I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the team to the Digicel family."

The founder and a number of the lead principals from IMC will stay on board to run the day-to-day operations of the content provider, while maintaining equity positions in business.

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