Why Consumers Choose Multichannel Television

Among the media measured in the Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica study, the one that is experiencing the most rapid growth right now is multichannel television. The term multichannel television is used to cover a variety of different means and technologies that delivery additional television channels beyond (and including) those that can be received through traditional broadcasting channels. Thus, we include cable television, microwave delivery, satellite television (both direct-to-home as well as master antenna), encrypted UHF signals, etc.

The popularity of multichannel television indicates that certain consumer needs are being successfully met. What might those be? The chart below shows the survey results from the 1997 Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica study.

By far, the most frequently cited reason is that one can obtain more television channels. Consider the case of Buenos Aires. The country of Argentina is presently the most developed cable television country in Latin America, with a penetration of over 60% of all households. There are five broadcast television stations: Channel 2 (América), Channel 7 (ATeCe), Channel 9 (Libertad), Channel 11 (Telefe) and Channel 13 (ArTeAr). When a household obtains cable television service, it can receive more than 70 television channels. This is a major increase in the number of viewing choices.

The next most frequently cited reason is that multichannel television provides access to information and entertainment from other places. Indeed, the issue is not so much as the number of channels as the increased choices with respect to content. Broadcast television stations are often designed to draw the largest audiences. Therefore, it is common to find the same program types being offered: children and telenovelas during the day, movies and telenovelas in the evening, news in late evening, sports on the weekends, etc.

Multichannel television provides a plethora of viewing choices. At any moment, there might be numerous movies, music videos, news programs, talk shows, cartoons, drama series, comedies, soccer games, and other program types being shown on various channels. Many of these programs cannot be found on broadcast television, because they are too narrowly targeted for mass appeal. Informationwise, multichannel television is highly international and cosmopolitan, and provides other perspectives of events.

Here are the plaintive Calvin and Hobbes, adapted for the comic column in La Nación (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 8/28/96. The phrase 'la misma basura' might be an exaggeration used to describe broadcast television, but this may be the perception of many people.

(by Roland Soong, 1/25/98)

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