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CTH’s Situation Improved with the Help of Inspur Media Cloud

Introduction 

The CTH Group, Thailand's largest cable TV operator, has been faced with the urgent need to go digital since its formation. With the help of Inspur Media Cloud, CTH has unified its business model and made the transition from analog to digital. Thanks to its transformation from one-way output to two-way interaction, CTH has enabled millions of TV customers in Thailand to shift from watching TV to using TV.

With the fast development of the global digital TV industry, the way people watch TV has changed dramatically, and consumers are now making increasing demands on broadcasting and TV operators. More and more new ideas and technologies are playing important roles in the transformation and upgrading of television networks, accelerating the reform of the most important screen in most people’s homes. Because TV in Thailand is still analog-based and uniform, it is imperative that Thailand's TV operators carry out the shift to digital. CTH is one of the typical cable operators that have seized this opportunity and made Thailand one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to implement a digital shift.

Cable Thai Holding (CTH) was established in 2010, and has since become the biggest cable television operator in Thailand. It is composed of over 100 local cable operators who want to provide more and better TV programs. At present, 70% of local operators (323 LCOs) are broadcasting CTH television programs, which are viewed by more than 3,500,000 households.

Such a huge system presents great challenges for management and business development. The primary mission of CTH is therefore to provide better Digital TV service to millions of users and meet their demand to watch TV in intelligent and personalized ways. Based on this mission, the CTH Group plans to provide 120-200 live TV programs to all the family cable customers in Thailand via an optic fiber network. Over the next three years, this plan will achieve the transition from analog to digital and shift to two-way networks, and benefit over half of the families in Thailand.

Challenges in the Transition from Analog to Digital and from One-Way to Two-Way

CTH's plan will be very difficult to implement.

Thailand's digital TV industry is still in the early stages, and there are neither large numbers of users nor a uniform digital TV standard. The transformation from analog to digital signals and from one-way to two-way interaction can only be made by choice and in step, instead of all at once. The following are some of the challenges that Thailand faces as it develops digital TV.

Fierce competition. There are many operators in the market, which puts great pressure on production, operations, and service. The Thai digital TV industry is not monopolistic, and the customers can choose any operator they want. Upgrading broadcasting and TV networks and providing quality Digital TV service is the only way to develop stable customer resources and get ahead in the industry.

Weak network foundation. The coverage and operating ability of broadcasting and TV networks is generally not strong enough to successfully develop Digital TV operations. The CTH Group is composed of hundreds of cable operators, and its operations and business development efforts are quite dispersed. Various networks must be integrated in order to develop Digital TV. As a consequence, a media cloud platform is needed to achieve unified management, operation, and business development.

Great regional differences. Considering Thailand's geographical constraints, it will be very difficult to cover all areas with a single product and system scheme. Thailand’s geography includes mainland and islands. Diverse products, including cable, ground, and satellite Digital TV, are needed to meet the various demands of different households.

CTH's shift from analog to high definition digital TV STB is therefore the first step in the digitization process. A whole set of solutions will be needed for the transition from head-end systems to middleware deployment, and finally to terminal applications. Only in this way can rich business models be realized, including two-way shopping malls, intelligent EPG, online management systems, advertising systems, and multi-screen interaction, etc.

A media cloud platform needed for improvement of operating and service ability

The digital TV industry in Southeast Asia has been slow to develop, and it will be difficult for CTH to stand out by itself within the short term. As a result, CTH’s senior leadership has been looking toward other countries, and hopes to achieve rapid improvement with the help of international technology. In particular, thanks to its cloud computing and experience in the development of media cloud platforms, Inspur has attracted the interest of Akradej Supamahitorn and other senior executives, who have opted to adopt the mature solution of Inspur Media Cloud.

Between December 2012 and January 2013, CTH and Inspur have embarked on a series of HD STB set-top box and middleware projects, which will collectively comprise the first digital TV solution to adopt a digital TV cloud platform framework in Thailand and even Southeast Asia. Through CTH's transformation from analog to digital and from one-way to two-way network reform, Thailand's digital TV industry is developed from nothing and achieving two-way high-definition interactivity.

In CTH’s transformation process, Inspur has offered a set of solutions reflecting Thailand’s operating conditions; these include head-end, STB, and mobile equipment terminals, and encompass business, service, and operation. Inspur has provided CTH with various STB schemes based on regional differences, including DVB-C, CTH DVB-S2, DVB-T, etc., which achieve full-system service employing various terminals and application scenarios. Apart from STB, these solutions also include many value-added business applications, which can be provided via terminals such as TVs, mobile phones, PADs, and so on, and achieve TV and advertising, network management, and appstore functions.

Transformation from Watching TV to Using TV

Of course, before Inspur Media Cloud was successfully applied in Thailand, it had aroused some worries on the part of CTH's management.

While Inspur Media Cloud undoubtedly had many technical advantages and successful cases, its success in China did not mean that Inspur Media Cloud would be able to survive and achieve the same success in Thailand. Could it be possible that Inspur Media Cloud would not be able to adapt to the new environment? As for digital TV subscribers in Thailand, how could they be sure that Inspur Media Cloud would be compatible with their original set-top boxes? Could Inspur Media Cloud really satisfy all viewers’ needs, considering that digital TV would be switched to a new platform? Would the introduction of Cloud Platform bring substantial changes to the management and operation of CTH, and would it generate significant revenue from advertising and other business?

In reality, thanks to the steady progress of the CTH project, Inspur Media Cloud has fostered major changes in Thailand's digital TV, realized the transformation from watching TV to using TV, and achieved a series of value innovations.

Unifying Business Models and Increasing User Stickiness

By using uniform set-top box terminals, middleware, and front-end architecture, Inspur Media Cloud has unified CTH's digital TV business model and achieved compatibility with CTH's original set-top boxes and services. This has provided solid support to the reorganized CTH, enabling it to rapidly expand its brand-new TV business and complete the transformation from watching TV to using TV. In addition, the use of a unified business model has reduced the costs borne by each household, and led to a steady increase in users. Nowadays, in Thailand, the fee for installing satellite TV has decreased to around 1200 baht. Such a low price encourages consumers to abandon analog broadcasts and shift to Digital TV. It can be seen from current trends that TV antennas will disappear from the Thai domestic market in three or four years, and more and more people will turn to the use cable TV, terrestrial TV, and satellite TV.

A Big Increase in Advertising Revenue

By creating platforms offering various single-way/two-way value-added services (VAS), CTH has become the first operator in Thailand with sufficient operation capabilities for two-way Digital TV. Through deployment and implementation via a smart advertising operating platform, CTH has achieved accurate delivery of TV programs and intelligent management, thus meeting subscribers’ demands and increasing profits. Furthermore, as the quality of digital TV services is improved, enthusiasm for installing and watching cable TV continues to grow. The rapid increase in subscription and TV ratings will quickly lead to a steady increase in the value of advertising on cable TV. According to Wei Qi, president of Thailand Cable TV Association, nearly 20 million households are now subscribing to cable TV programs in Thailand, and cable TV advertising revenue is approximately 10 billion baht per year, which is much higher than the figure of only 3 billion baht in 2011.

Multi-screen Viewing

The introduction of multi-screen interaction shows that developers are giving young people’s demands full consideration. This concept is intended to realize multilayered, in-depth interaction between multi-screen terminals and TV terminals. With mobile phones/PADs, users may watch live shows on TV by means of multi-screen terminals, or can watch programs broadcast by different channels simultaneously on multi-screen terminals and on TV. Moreover, Inspur Media Cloud enables such new functions as the bi-directional sharing between multi-screen terminals and TV terminals, multi-screen linkage control, and social TV. In this way, it has made a notable contribution to TV usage, and has increased radio and TV network coverage.

Automated, User-Centered, Differentiated Services

The system can gain a real-time knowledge of its users’ interests through the linkage between terminals and the Cloud Platform, and then offer automatic recommendations reflecting users’ viewing habits concerning what TV programs they might be interested in. This is likely to lead to a dramatic increase in the usage of two-way services. Furthermore, the platform's automatic acquisition of users’ viewing habits helps to optimize users’ lists of television programs, the system’s recommendation, and even advertising. The EPG at each TV terminal will be different because of users’ personal interests. The system can therefore achieve automated, user-centered, differentiated services in the truest sense.


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