First subscription television channel



On 2 April 1992, the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) launched the first subscription television channel in Singapore through its subsidiary, Singapore CableVision. Named NewsVision, the subscription channel was a 24-hour news service. It showed mainly news from the United States’ Cable News Network (CNN), but also included feeds from Independent Television News and delayed telecasts of SBC’s 9 pm news.

Background
On 21 March 1991, then Acting Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo announced plans to have more television channels, mainly pay channels charged on a subscription basis.1 Then on 22 May 1991, SBC announced its plan to offer three new subscription channels by mid-1992.2 The channels were NewsVision, an all-news channel; MovieVision, a movie channel; and VarietyVision, a sports and general entertainment channel. All three channels would be transmitted on ultra-high frequency.3 SBC marked the occasion by signing two contracts worth S$6.1 million with Sumitomo Corporation and Infotel Technologies to supply transmitting, microwave and programme input equipment for the new subscription television.4


SBC committed an initial investment of up to S$20 million to purchase hardware such as transmission equipment and satellite dishes to receive overseas signals. It also signed an agreement with CNN to broadcast items for NewsVision.5

On 10 September 1991, SBC announced that it had formed a subsidiary, Singapore CableVision, to manage the subscription service.6 SBC had a 35 percent stake in Singapore CableVision, while the remaining 65 percent was held by Singapore International Media, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.7

Description
SBC’s first subscription television channel went on the air on 2 April 1992.8 The 24-hour NewsVision broadcasted primarily news from CNN, but also featured news from Independent Television News and delayed telecasts of SBC’s 9 pm news.9 It marked the first time when the Singapore government permitted public access to a foreign news network on television, and thus broke SBC’s monopoly on relaying news on television.10

The two other subscription channels, MovieVision and VarietyVision, were made available from 1 June 1992. MovieVision broadcasted for 12 hours daily, and featured 30 movies each month from Time Warner’s subsidiary, Home Box Office Asia. VarietyVision, on the other hand, featured Mandarin drama, cartoons and sports programmes.11

The subscription fees were S$29.95 per month each for NewsVision and VarietyVision, and S$34.95 for MovieVision. Discounted rates were given for subscription of two or more channels. To receive the signals, subscribers were required to install an ultra-high frequency antenna which cost between S$250 and S$500.12 Subscribers also had to install decoders in their television sets to receive and translate the signal into pictures and sound. The equipment was provided free with a three-channel subscription, but there was an installation cost of S$50.13 The subscription channels were also offered by Singapore CableVision to hotels at a rate of 50 cents per day for each room the service was relayed.14

30,000 subscribers were expected to sign up for the service initially.15



Author
Nureza Ahmad



References
1. George, C. (1991, March 22). Coming soon: More TV channelsThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Three new subscription TV channels by next year. (1991, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Foo, J. (1992, April 26). Will pay TV push out the tape? The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
4. Three new subscription TV channels by next year. (1991, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Three new subscription TV channels by next year. (1991, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 2; Phang, M. (1991, September 10). SBC to launch subscription TV by April 1992. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Phang, M. (1991, September 10). SBC to launch subscription TV by April 1992. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Singapore’s first subscription TV channel goes on the air tomorrow. (1992, April 1). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Foo, J. (1992, April 26). Will pay TV push out the tape? The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
9.
Singapore’s first subscription TV channel goes on the air tomorrow. (1992, April 1). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. George, C. (1999, December 22). News time is now show timeThe Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Singapore’s first subscription TV channel goes on the air tomorrow. (1992, April 1). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Singapore’s first subscription TV channel goes on the air tomorrow. (1992, April 1). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Foo, J. (1992, April 26). Will pay TV push out the tape? The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Singapore’s first subscription TV channel goes on the air tomorrow. (1992, April 1). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Singapore’s first subscription TV channel goes on the air tomorrow. (1992, April 1). The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Phang, M. (1991, September 10). SBC to launch subscription TV by April 1992. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 1992 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Arts>>Television and video production
1965-1970 Nation building
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Leisure and entertainment
Events>>Historical Periods>>Independence and Nation-Building (1965-)
Cable television--Singapore