China's CMMB service seeks paying customers

Iris Hong
10 Sep 2009
China Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), the sole operator of China’s official mobile TV service, is looking for paying customers.
The service, now branded Jingcai, is based on the government-backed CMMB (China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting) technology, which debuted as a free service during the 2008 Olympics.
But to date Chinese consumers aren't showing as much enthusiasm for mobile TV as their foreign counterparts. CBC’s target of 10 million customers by year-end already looks well out of reach.
CBC – a company set up by media regulator SARFT, which funded the development of CMMB – has just begun pre-commercial trials in which users pay 36 yuan ($5.27) for access to six CMMB channels until June 30, 2010. After that, they can renew their subscription by paying 12 yuan ($1.76) per month.
But not even partners are confident. “The 12 yuan fee is probably too high,” said Che Lingfang, a spokesperson of CMMB chip-maker Innofidei. “We are trying to lobby SARFT to extend the CMMB promotion period or lower the fee.”
By comparison, Shanghai consumers pay 13 yuan a month for 60-channel cable TV.
SARFT has invested heavily in a dedicated CMMB bearer network. It now covers 191 cities and will expand to 337 cities by year-end. By that time CBC and channel partners are aiming to establish 200 retail stores around the country.
Shanghai Handy TV, CBC's Shanghai partner, began to charge about 16.7 yuan ($2.45) per month for CMMB in March. The company signed up only 5,000 subscribers in the first two months, according to channel partner Shanghai Geance. Mobile phone users accounted for only 10% of subscribers, well short of Geance's forecast 90%.
Although CBC has forged a three-year partnership with China Mobile to sell CMMB services on TD-SCDMA phones, the carrier has carried out almost no promotion.
“Several hundred” people have purchased CMMB services from Shanghai Handy TV's first retail outlet since it opened in the middle of August, the store’s manager Zhang Hao told
The store sells CMMB-capable PMPs and GPS devices, priced between 800 yuan ($117.13) to 3000 yuan ($439.24), manufactured by Philips, Shinco, Wanlida Group and Aigo, among others. Three CMMB mobile phone models manufactured by Samsung, ZTE and Yulong are also on display but not yet for sale.
“Most CMMB buyers are educated buyers and they knew about CMMB before coming to our store,” Zhang said. “Car owners, sports fans, stock investors and college students are our main customers.”
Shanghai Handy TV does not participate in CBC's promotion campaign, he said. It charges 110 yuan ($16.11) for half a year or 200 yuan ($29.28) for a year, in addition to 100 yuan ($14.64) for a conditional access (CA) card.


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