Bringing the magic of TV to the Caribbean
By Andrew Wang, CEO of Kiwisat
I have always considered TV like a window. It is a window that opens to a realm of opportunities - opportunities to see faraway places and stunning landscapes for those who don’t travel, to follow a football championship and cheer on a team without going to the stadium, to escape the daily routine by enjoying the magic of a fantastic universe, to keep up-to-date with what’s happening around the globe, and more. The bigger the window, the more open the realm of opportunities. Yet not everyone has access to such a wide window. The Caribbean, which has a modest population of over 40 million people, is home to few TV operators. This lack of competition means that very little efforts have been put into maintaining customer satisfaction with good quality service, accessible price, or premium content.
I wanted to change that, which is why we launched a DTH (direct-to-home) platform, Kiwisat, for the Caribbean this year. With this new TV package, our goal is to provide the best TV offer to viewers. How? By delivering what they never had before: A better window.
Choice is one of the essential pillars of our offer. Up until now, Caribbean viewers paid a pretty high price to access a fairly limited pool of content, and many were yearning for premium American TV channels they could only hear about. Now with Kiwisat, consumers can enjoy exclusive content such as HBO, CNN, Fox, NBC Sports. Our initial line-up offered 130 TV channels, and we recently extended it to 200 channels - enough to cater to everyone’s preferences, from cartoons and movies to news, documentaries and sports.
Kiwisat is the only DTH platform specifically designed for the Caribbean. Other offers in the market are either available in one specific island, or just consist of feeds from Latin American programmes. As many Caribbean islands’ main language is English, a large part of the population was let down. So when we brought our TV bouquet featuring a large number of premium TV channels in English, we made a lot of happy viewers. We also have a few French channels, and we recently added to our line-up about 40 channels in Spanish, so we can cater to various populations with different packages.
Many consumers in the Caribbean are equipped with HD (high definition) flat screens, yet receive SD (standard definition) content, which means they can’t enjoy the full HD experience their screen can display. What a waste of high quality TV screens! I decided to make delivering better picture quality to Caribbean audiences my mission, because I wanted consumers to experience the difference HD can make. Leveraging the DVB S2X and HEVC standards, we offer the largest HD line-up in the Caribbean region: our package started with 90 HD channels (out of 130 channels), and now delivers about 140 HD channels, which represents about three quarters of our bouquet.
After hurricane Irma last year, many people lost their access to TV because the ground infrastructure was destroyed. But even before then, cable TV subscribers often saw their TV services interrupted by technical issues, and had to wait for weeks (or months!) before it was fixed. Not acceptable in this day and age, especially when I knew there was another option out there to deliver a high standard of service: satellite. With satellite TV, we know that we can ensure reliable content delivery to our consumers, and that in case of natural disaster, we would be able to restore our services quickly.
All these features, combined and packaged into a new affordable TV offer, has made so many people happy in the last couple of months. I have witnessed the smile of our new customers walking in to subscribe and access HBO and CNN in top-picture quality. We started in Saint Martin just a few months ago, and we have gained popularity quite quickly, but we don’t plan to stop there. We are now expanding to other islands, such as Saint Thomas, British islands, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Jamaica.
All this is possible thanks to SES’ satellite SES-10, located at 67 degrees West. Thanks to the satellite’s comprehensive coverage over Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, we could deliver content easily to all islands. SES has provided us with more than satellite capacity though: since day one they have accompanied us, provided essential pointers to run our DTH business, trained to our antenna installers, and the list goes on.
I was in Cape Canaveral to see SES-10 roar into space aboard a flight-proven SpaceX rocket, and this is a very fond memory. First of all, it was simply spectacular. Second, it was a historic moment for the satellite industry. Finally, and more importantly to me, it marked the beginning of the Kiwisat adventure – and the opening of a better window.