CCTV adds six channels as digital rollout across the mainland gathers pace

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 August, 2004, 12:00am

The mainland's national broadcaster plans to launch six digital channels next week.

China Central Television will broadcast the channels from Monday and will start charging 58 yuan a month for the digital package from September.

Some analysts have questioned whether the channels on offer are diverse enough. Of the six channels in the package, two will be dedicated to the Olympics and other sporting events, two will show television dramas, one will focus on world geography and another will feature music.

The two sports channels will be a reincarnation of existing CCTV pay-TV channels.

One of the drama channels will show new productions while the other will mainly broadcast international programmes.

A CCTV digital spokesman said the paid channels would not be subject to a State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) ban on prime-time airing of crime shows.

Until the end of this month, viewers throughout the country, with the exception of Shanghai, will be able to watch the six digital channels free. But from next month, they will be charged 58 yuan for the package, which will include a further four channels.

Since last September, about 30 digital pay-TV channels have been available in selected areas of the mainland. They cover everything from sport to home decoration.

An official report said that between 200,000 and 300,000 people were watching digital television at the end of last year. SARFT wants that audience to expand to 10 million by this year. By 2015, it hopes existing cable operators will have transferred to the digital format.

To receive digital television channels, viewers must install set-top boxes which cost about 1,000 yuan.

A joint survey by media research company CSM and the Beijing Broadcasting Institute found 74 per cent of people surveyed said they were willing to pay for digital TV channels.

Beijing Broadcasting Institute professor Huang Shengmin said the quality of the programmes would determine the channels' success.

'People's demands are diverse and only programmes that cater well to audience demands will be viable,' Professor Huang said.