24 May 2019

The Speech by the Chairman of myFreeview at the Digital TV Media Briefing Organised by MCMC on 24 May 2019

By Johan Ishak

BROADCASTING in Malaysia has gone through a significant progression since it was first introduced way back in 1963. We started off watching movies and television (TV) programmes in black and white. Then there was the full colour transmission that was officially inaugurated in 1982. Since then the broadcasting industry, that was in analogue broadcast system, progressed in tandem with technological advancements. We have all grown up in the analogue broadcast era.

Our broadcasting system will soon experience a transition from analogue to digital broadcast system. This is a global progression in the broadcasting industry which began in 2006. The Government is currently working towards the progression to digital broadcast, that will be fully embraced by October this year (2019). In fact, today, the transmission of digital terrestrial radio wave is already completed at 100% coverage of the nation. This is of course from the hard work of the infrastructure owner, MYTV Broadcasting (MYTV). Under the analogue transmission, we are only able to reach 85% to 90% coverage.

To ensure that all Malaysians are able to experience the digital broadcast system when the analogue switch off happens, myFreeview was introduced. It is a brand name for Malaysia’s free Digital TV (DTV) Broadcasting services, i.e. Digital Terrestrial TV Broadcasting (DTTB). myFreeview is an alliance of Free-to-Air (FTA) TV broadcasters in Malaysia. It represents existing FTA TV operators such as Media Prima TV Networks (TV3, ntv7, 8TV and TV9); Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM); TV Al-Hijrah and Bernama News Channel. We also have new FTA TV operators, that consists of more than thirteen (13) Content Application Service Provider (CASP) license holders.

myFreeview is aimed at jointly promoting the FTA TV channels through a single or unified brand, i.e. myFreeview, over the DTV platform that is being operated by MYTV. It will also work closely with Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to execute the education and awareness campaign on-air, on-ground, on-line and on social media. At this juncture, myFreeview would like to thank MCMC for the continuous and valuable support. In implementing the roll out of DTV, myFreeview will also constantly discuss common areas of concerns and challenges that all of its members are facing and hence, present suggestions and recommendations to regulators and stakeholders for the betterment of the FTA TV industry.

Now that you know who is myFreeview and its objective let us talk about its benefits. With myFreeview, viewers can watch their favourite channels in high quality and clear image, enjoy high quality sound, have various subtitles and gain access to Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that provides programme details and synopsis. They can also watch content in High Definition (HD). With digital transmission, viewers can rest assured that they will not face any disruption in transmission due to bad weather conditions. Furthermore, myFreeview services will be offered without any monthly subscription charges.

With internet connection, viewers can watch more of their favorite content by pressing the Red Button on their remote controls. In our case, viewers can access online streaming channels such as tonton.com.my content on demand by pressing the red button. In addition, such internet capabilities, if connected via internet line or Wifi, can give users the access to various online content including video games and e-commerce. Under the current analogue transmission, not only we are missing such services, there is also limitations in offering more FTA TV channels due to the transmission spectrum congestion.

How do you get access to myFreeview channels? Basically there are two ways to do so – i.e. DTTB approved Set Top Box or via integrated Digital TV (iDTV or Smart TV) sets that are already with DTV tuner built-in. Consumers only need to purchase a decoder (Set Top Box) to enable their current analogue TV sets to receive the DTV channels, or, purchase an iDTV with a built-in decoder. They only have to plug in a Ultra High Frequency (UHF) antenna to receive DTV services. Most new flat screen Smart TV sets in the market have DTV decoders built-in today. Those who are buying DTV enabled equipment such as Set Top Boxes or iDTV sets should look out for the SIRIM certified DTTB logo. This is to ensure that they are getting the right Set Top Box or iDTV set that would give them access to myFreeview channels. We understand that to date there are twelve iDTV brands that are already SIRIM certified such as Samsung, Panasonic and Sony, to name a few.

To date, myFreeview has compelling content in the form of 15 television channels and six radio channels. We expect to add four more channels very soon. Four broadcasters have come on board, namely, RTM, Media Prima TV Networks, Al-Hijrah Media Corporation and Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama). As for Radio, we have RTM Radio stations across the nation that are now on this DTV platform. Currently, myFreeview is being led by Media Prima TV Networks' Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Johan Ishak, being the Chairman of myFreeview. We also have Cik Adiwati Zainuddin, the CEO of Borneo TV, as myFreeview's Deputy Chairperson.

As we get ready to migrate to digital broadcast system, we intend to offer more FTA DTV channels with quality content, that are appealing to our viewers. We also want to ensure that our viewers will be able to enjoy high quality viewing with crisp and clearer image quality and vibrant colors coupled with better quality audio with multi-channel and surround sound capabilities. In the future, we, myFreeview, hope to roll-out more channels with fresh content, interactive TV services including home shopping, sports, entertainment, video game, video on demand, and customised services as well as mobile and TV shopping. With more choices and better quality content without subscription, we believe that terrestrial TV will get a new lease of life, hence bringing back the glory days where TV is the central entertainment and communal device in the family unit. In an effort to ensure that Malaysians from all walk of life enjoy FTA TV and kept informed at all times, we will focus on offering free TV services, i.e. migrating our existing analogue TV channels on DTV platform. Currently, we have no plans to include Pay-TV channels on myFreeview. We may revisit the idea in future.

As we get closer towards the Analogue Switch Off (ASO), we want to attract viewers to myFreeview. We believe we are able to do so by offering free, new and latest content that is appealing and interesting for viewers of all ages. By offering myFreeview services free without monthly subscription charges, it will definitely be well received. We understand that there are some questions with regards to the difference between myFreeview and ASTRO. First and foremost, myFreeview is a brand that comprise of FTA TV channels that are subscription free and derives its income from advertising, while ASTRO is a pay TV that is subscription-based. In terms of transmission, ASTRO uses satellite while with myFreeview, the content is broadcasted to TV via transmitters in a digital format. This also enables mobile receivers (in-car and hand-held) to be used unlike ASTRO that requires fixed and non-mobile reception. Hence, we do not see ASTRO as a competitor. We believe that myFreeview will be very much accepted as it is subscription free and has lots to offer with the digital experience. As for the difference with ASTRO NJOI, myFreeview channel is broadcasted over DTTB platform, that is not affected by rain, while NJOI operates over ASTRO satellite platform that may be interrupted by weather conditions.

There will be areas, that will not be able to receive the DTV signals due to blockages and its location beyond the transmitter coverage areas. These areas will be serviced using satellite Direct-To-Home (DTH). To ensure that no one is left behind in this migration, my advice to the Rakyat (public) is to get the decoders and install it. Don’t wait until the ASO. They can purchase the DTTB decoders from electronic retailers and partners such as Pensonic and Seng Heng. Once the analogue transmission is switched off and viewers who have not purchased their decoders, they will not be able to watch their favourite programmes on the FTA channels. Decoders or Set Top Boxes mean the same as the term is used by the industry interchangeably. For the 2 million households that have received the decoders under the Bantuan Sara Hidup Rakyat (BSHR), please install them. It is time to experience DTV! For those who are not within the BSHR eligibility, please buy your DTTB Set Top Boxes that are only priced at RM187 and of course, you will need to incur some installation costs as well as the antenna cost if you do not have one already. Alternatively, it is better to get a new Smart TV or iDTV with DTTB capabilities.

There is a growing concern about the ability for the CASP license holders to make money. Basically, the revenue model for the channels under CASP is an Advertisement Revenue model (Adex). Adex is predominantly driven by viewership numbers. Viewership numbers are reported by third party independent TV viewership measurement consultant that broadcasters have to subscribe to. Currently, Nielsen is providing that measurement services. It is with pleasure that some good news have been reported by Nielsen as far as TV viewership is concerned. In the past year or so, we have seen a tremendous increase in FTA TV viewership. Media Prima TV Networks, for example, saw its TV3 achieving 28% audience share in 2019 as opposed to 21% in 2018.

Such good achievement is on the back of strong performances by TV programmes such as Buletin Utama that saw almost 100% increase from 1.5 million views to 3.0 million views per episode. Good Malay drama titles like Leftenan Zan reached an average viewers of 4 million during its last few episodes. This is a good indicator of people wanting to watch TV again. We have seen statistics that show Cord Nevers (Millennials who did not grow up watching TV) and Cord Cutters (Gen X who had earlier abandoned TV viewing) returning to FTA TV viewing habit. This is certainly a good sign, but, broadcasters must strive to give quality content that meets audiences' expectations. This is so because TV broadcasting should also benchmark the quality of its content to that offered by other platforms such as Pay-TV, on-line streaming services (Also known as Over-the-Top (OTT)) and the internet in general (e.g. YouTube and numerous other on-line video players).

Another important aspect of this industry that has not been mentioned yet is piracy. myFreeview and Communication and Multimedia Content Forum (CMCF) are working closely with the authorities such as MCMC and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumerism (KPDNHEP) to battle piracy on many levels be it hardwares or content infringement. The Government agencies mentioned have eliminated many unnecessary procedures to ensure that they can react faster and even proactively address piracy. We urge everyone from viewers to content providers to help join us fight piracy. The impact of piracy to the economic well being of the industry is huge. Recently, many pirate sites were closed down in a space of one month and we discovered that that alone had 40 million views. Such number is indeed worrying. We need to fight this. Or else, it will become a cancer to our Broadcasting Industry, Content Industry as well as the Digital Industry making it impossible to grow economically.

Essentially, In a nut shell, the salient points to take away are: (a) DTV is ready at 100% transmission coverage by MyTV across the nation; (b) Do not wait until ASO in October 2019, but, instead, get your Set Top Boxes or iDTV now if you are not one of the 2 million BSHR Set Top Boxes recipients, and do not forget to also install UHF antennas; (c) Enjoy the variety of content that myFreeview channels will be offering free of charge (d) The existing CASP license holders should expedite the commencement of their channels on myFreeview; (e) We welcome more content owners to apply for CASP license and procure channels on myFreeview for better and variety offerings to the viewers as well as the chance to make money; and finally (f) Say no to piracy whether in the form of hardware (i.e. illegal android boxes) or content infringement activities on various platforms like Facebook, YouTube, web sites or even illegal Set Top Boxes. On that note, please embrace DTV and should you need further information, read more about this on the web site myfreeview.tv


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