Thu | Aug 17, 2017

ReadyTV eyes 500,000 market

Published:Wednesday | May 24, 2017 | 5:00 AMSteven Jackson
Chris Dehring of ReadyTV/Digital Interactive Services Limited.
Chris Dehring, CEO of Digital Interactive Services Limited.
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Digicel was initially a partner with Chris Dehring in the company that will operate new subscriber service, ReadyTV, but that relationship ended years ago.

Now the two companies will vie in the same market when ReadyTV formally launches into business today, Wednesday.

The service will employ 125 workers and offer service initially in Kingston, St Catherine, Clarendon and St Ann from its headquarters in Portmore, St Catherine. It will drive its signal from a single tower in Coopers Hill, St Andrew, which will spread the wireless service as far as sections of Mandeville, co-CEO Dehring told Gleaner Business. He declined to state precisely how much was invested in the cable service, saying only it was a "few millions" and, later, that a US$6 million query was closer to the mark.

The service expects to expand nationally within a year. It will target the 500,000 households currently without cable service with prepaid cable packages.

ReadyTV enters the market as a new rival to DigicelPlay and Flow. Dehring said Digicel gave up its stake in ReadyTV parent Digital Interactive Services Limited (DISL) almost a decade ago. Later, Digicel would enter the cable market via a different route - the acquisition of existing operator Telstar, which it later rebranded DigicelPlay.

DISL was formed in July 2008 to provide cable services prior to Digicel entering the cable business. Digicel Group CEO Colm Delves gave up his directorship of DISL in 2009.

"DISL was a joint venture long ago when the licence was first issued. That was a joint venture between myself, David Cassanova and Digicel. So this company is now owned by us. Digicel is no longer involved," said Dehring said in an interview on Monday.

Cassanova is now co-CEO at DISL, according to Dehring.

Alongside Dehring and Cassanova, company directors of DISL include Peter Reid; Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell; Gerard Borely, formerly chief financial officer of Cable and Wireless Caribbean; and Magnus Johansson.

In 2008, DISL won a cable licence offered by the Jamaican Government, Dehring recalled. The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica indicated that ReadyTV holds an islandwide subscriber TV licence, similar to its rivals.

The ReadyTV distribution model sees cable units placed for sale at 50 outlets islandwide, including Rubis gas stations, Lucky Dollar, Rapid True-Value and Courts. Customers will buy the units and self-install, unless they opt for an installation service.

Dehring indicated that the cable unit will cost $4,500 and that the service comes with 10 free channels - eight local and two overseas. Subscribers may pay to access up to 74 channels. The channel count is expected to rise in the coming months.

"We hope to break-even within a year, but if not, then, three years," said Dehring. "We hope to do to cable what prepaid mobile did to Jamaica," he said.

Dehring was previously employed to the current parent company for Flow, but in September 2015, he resigned his position as chairman of Cable & Wireless Jamaica chairman and as a member of CWC's senior executive team. He served in that capacity for six years.

Dehring's track record also includes the co-founding of Jamaica's first investment bank, the Caribbean's first sports television channel, and a digital wireless cable TV company.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com