All-Asian Satellite Television and Radio Operator, doing business as Astro, is a Malaysian satellite television provider. It operates in Malaysia and Brunei and has operations at the All Asia Broadcast Centre located in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur and MEASAT in Cyberjaya. It was granted an exclusive license as a sole pay-television provider by the Malaysia federal government until 2017. It competes with Unifi TV, an IPTV service owned by Telekom Malaysia (TM). As of September 2014, Astro has four million subscribers.
|Industry||Broadcasting, Mass Media|
|Founded||29 September 1996|
|Headquarters||AABC, Lebuhraya Puchong-Sg. Besi, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia|
|Zaki Azmi (Chairman)|
Henry Tan Poh Hock, CEO
|Products||Direct broadcast satellite|
|Revenue||RM5.613 million (Q1 2017).|
|RM777.71 million (2014)|
|RM447.95 million (2014)|
|Parent||Astro All Asia Networks plc|
Astro is a wholly owned subsidiary of Astro All Asia Networks plc. and operated by MEASAT Broadcast Network Systems Sdn. Bhd.
On 29 September 1996, Astro was launched as "Philips ASTRO".
On 18 February 2012, Astro introduced NJOI as a free-to-view satellite TV service, similar to the UK's Freesat, France's TNTSAT and Italy's Tivùsat. As of February 2015, NJOI has 24 SD channels, 5 HD channels and some radio channels.
ASTRO launched its own high-definition platform called Astro B.yond on 11 December 2009. Its rollout costed RM200 million, including marketing and operating costs of approximately RM150 million.
It introduced a PVR with an external hard disk drive connected to the decoder. The PVR comes with an inbuilt 500GB hard disk and allows customers to record up to two live programmes at one time, rewind and pause live TV. Recording services is also available through Astro B.yond via a compatible external hard disk drive and activation of the recording service by Astro.
In April 2011, Astro B.yond introduced its IPTV platform, in association with TIME dotCom Berhad.
Launched on 20 April 2011 as Astro B.yond IPTV, it featured HD channels, a PVR, VOD channels, high-speed internet and voice services. Astro's initial target audiences were residences of high-rise buildings that were having difficulty with the installation of dishes from Astro's satellite service.
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Astro NJOI is a Malaysian first free-to-view satellite TV service by Astro. Launched in collaboration with the Government of Malaysia on 18 February 2012, it debuted with 18 channels and 19 radio stations.
Currently, NJOI offers 26 SDTV channels, 5 HD channels and 26 radio channels.
Astro Ultra BoxEdit
Astro Ultra is Malaysia's first UHD pay TV service that delivers content to customers through their internet connection. The service was launched in early 2020 and it gave access to Malaysians a taste of 4K resolution broadcast TV. As part of the launch, Astro currently has 1 UHD channel which also premiered a live EPL match in 4K for the very first time in Malaysia. Astro Ultra is also the gateway to cloud recording, with a monthly subscription if customers need more recording space.
Service and technical informationEdit
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Astro broadcasts on Ku-band using the transponders of the MEASAT satellite system. Reception of the service signals uses a fixed 65-cm diameter dish antenna. Astro service is currently transmitting from 3 satellites, which are Measat 3, Measat 3a and Measat 3b.
Initially, the HDMI output of the B.yond PVR was disabled (including NJOI) if the user was not subscribed to the HD service. However, since late-2014, the HDMI output is now enabled to every customer with the release of firmware updates featuring multilingual user-interface.[unreliable source?]
Since its launch, Astro distributes programming with encryption to mitigate signal piracy. The receiver (also known as an IRD, or "integrated receiver-decoder") uses ISO/IEC 7816 smart cards which tells the receiver how to decrypt the programming for viewing.
- The first generation of smart cards were used until 2004. The encryption uses the SECA Mediaguard.
- The second generation of smart cards were introduced in 2004 and used until 2008. The encryption uses the improved version of Mediaguard.
- The third generation of smart cards were introduced in 2008. This is the current "standard issue" smart card. It uses the NDS VideoGuard encryption system.
Currently, Astro uses the enhanced VideoGuard encryption system for B.yond boxes as it features smart card pairing technology, where the smart card are only allowed for the particular set-top-box issued by Astro, and it is no longer interchangeable like the legacy Astro set-top-boxes.
As of February 2015, Astro has provided services to more than 4 million subscribers, which represents more than 50% of Malaysia's television households.
As of Q4 2016, Astro has 3.4 million pay TV subscribers and 1.6 million NJOI subscribers, making a total of 5 million customers, which represents 71% household penetration.
Criticism and controversiesEdit
Monopoly over paid television marketEdit
Astro has been criticized over its monopolistic practice where it has become a dominant paid television in Malaysia while its competitors such as ABNXcess, Mega TV and MiTV are not able to compete against Astro and become defunct few years after its launch. Previously Astro used to be the sole paid television operator in Malaysia until 2017 when another competitor, Telekom Malaysia's Unifi TV, has reportedly leading up to become the stronger cord-cutting alternative paid television to Astro as subscription revenue for Astro has fallen 2.7% in the first quarter of 2017, while Unifi TV gains subscription revenue by 58% in 2016, and the decline of Astro subscribers were attributed by Telekom Malaysia's decision to bundle Unifi TV with their own broadband internet, landline telephone and mobile network.
While their exclusive rights and privileges to broadcast exclusive contents were ended on 28 February 2017, however, Astro continued to have rights to broadcast on a non-exclusive basis as their Network Facilities Provider Individual Licence and Network Service Provider Individual Licence provided under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and Content Applications Service Provider (CASP) individual licence, will expire on 1 February 2020 and 28 February 2022. At the same time, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission would instead provide CASP individual license to 35 broadcasting companies to give customers more choices on content, in which 4 of the broadcasting companies are approved to broadcast their content through satellite television.
Malaysian government's proposed plan to cracking down on Android set-top box in 2019 similar to the action taken by government of Singapore has raised concern that Astro could benefits from this crackdown and continue to control Malaysian television market should the crackdown proceeds.
Sports content disputeEdit
Astro also currently having greater control over broadcasting rights on sports events has prevent competitors from broadcasting similar sports events which Astro currently broadcasting, especially all Liga Super, Piala Malaysia, FIFA World Cup 2014 and 2018 contents broadcast in Radio Television Malaysia's free-to-air television channels were blocked on UniFi TV. The similar situation were also occurs on Media Prima when Media Prima had forced to abandon broadcasting FIFA World Cup 2014 on their television channels. The unavailability of these contents on competing services were attributed to Astro demanding Telekom Malaysia and Media Prima to pay royalty fees which were too high for these companies to afford. However, Telekom Malaysia had paid some royalty fees to Astro to allow Thomas Cup 2014 event broadcasts on RTM's TV1 to be allowed to shown on UniFi TV. The decision to charge high royalty fees were criticized by Jeremy Kung, executive vice president of TM New Media, who believe that sports contents broadcasts on free-to-air television channels should make it available to public for free. Former Information, Communications, Arts and Culture minister Rais Yatim urged the media groups who had exclusive rights to major sports events should share their contents to free-to-air television channels. Pakatan Harapan's youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad expressed that the rights to broadcast English Premier League should be co-licensed with Radio Television Malaysia instead of restricted to only available on Astro.
Astro has also been criticized over their decision to raise their services price and impose penalty fees multiple times.
In June 2007, Astro raised the service fee for about 15% and on November the same year, Astro has converted some previously free channels that they carried including Bloomberg, Al Jazeera English and CTGN into paid channels by bundling into channel packages. This makes movie channel and Chinese language television channel packages to become prohibitively expensive. Anyone who perform package downgrade or removal of some paid channels will be imposed additional RM 10 surcharge. Malaysiakini writer, Cheah Kah Seng, had encouraged the readers to protest against price hike and provide instructions on how to do so.
Despite the protest from subscribers, Astro continued the practice of raising the subscription fees two years later in 2009, and again in 2011, 2013 and 2014. This was due to Astro's exclusive rights to broadcast sports contents through contract, Astro dependency on other television networks, and Astro as a sole satellite television provider in Malaysia has led to left many customers without other cheaper and stronger alternatives.
Customers who uses Astro own personal video recorder (PVR), Astro MAX, reported that the device performance were slow and lagging, and occasionally some recorded contents are lost or corrupted. Other issues such as certain channels cannot be recorded were also reported.
Advertising on pay television channelsEdit
Paid channels carried on Astro usually carries traditional commercial advertising that will be shown on commercial break, despite customers had paid for the paid television channels.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 July 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- NJOI PREPAID
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