News Corp's Star TV has bagged the first pay-TV licence to be granted by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority. At the same time, Star chairman James Murdoch has confirmed that the company still plans to go ahead with launching pay-TV services in Hong Kong.
The Pakistani licence enables local cable operators to redistribute Star TV content legally. "We are extremely delighted with the grant of the licence, which provides us with a unique opportunity to meet the burgeoning demand for pay-TV services in Pakistan," Murdoch said.
The award follows Star's recent acquisition of a 26% stake in Indian cable operator Hathway Cable and Datacom Private. The company is also reportedly in talks with Asian internet service provider Pacific Internet (PacNet) about forming a joint venture to launch internet services in India.
Meanwhile Murdoch has stated that Star will stick by its decision to launch a pay-TV service in Hong Kong, despite that fact that other licensees are reportedly having second thoughts.
The Hong Kong authorities awarded five pay-TV licences in July in a bid to open up a market that is currently dominated by I-Cable Communications. Star's digital subsidiary Hong Kong DTV won one of the licences, as did UK video-on-demand operator Yes Television, TVB's Galaxy Satellite Broadcasting, Chinese communications company Hong Kong Network TV and Taiwan's Pacific Digital Media.
However observers have questioned whether a market as small as Hong Kong -with cable penetration of only 22% - can sustain so many competing pay-TV services.
"We operate many pay-TV services around the world, some of which are very profitable," said Murdoch, adding: "The Hong Kong pay-TV market is very promising. The question is how many operators can this market support' I don't know the answer to that."
On Monday, Hong Kong's Secretary for the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau, Carrie Yau, said it was possible that some pay-TV licensees may renege on plans to launch services.