2010 Latin American Convergence, Pay TV and Digital Media Market

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Last updated: 24 Aug 2010 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 99

Analyst: Lucia Bibolini

Publication Overview

This report covers developments in the Convergence, Pay TV and Digital Media Market of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The countries covered in this report include: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the small Caribbean island nations.

Researcher:- Lucia Bibolini, Lawrence Baker
Current publication date:- August 2010 (9th Edition)
Next publication date:- August 2011


Executive Summary

In Latin America’s vertically integrated telecom market, convergence has become a popular solution not only for companies, as a way to attract more customers, but also for regulators, as a way to promote competition. In most countries, the incumbents continue to dominate the fixed-line sector, with Local Loop Unbundling being rare in this region and wholesale activity not very well developed. In the broadband sector, most incumbents have secured a virtual monopoly in the delivery of ADSL access. The only broadband competition is across technologies, from cable modem and WiMAX services.

The concern many governments face is the shortage of fixed line infrastructure, tied to the fear that operators will cease to invest in their network if they are forced to unbundle their local loop or lower wholesale prices. Of course, telecom companies have done their best to encourage this fear.

Many regulators hope alternative operators will build their own infrastructure and reach unserviced areas, thus increasing teledensity. New entrants do not build copper cable networks, but usually use wireless technologies such as WiMAX. Over these, they offer broadband and sometimes telephony or even pay TV.

Cable TV companies, meanwhile, have jumped onto the bandwagon, flaunting their ability to offer both broadband and telephony over HFC or fibre optic networks, thus being able to increase the country’s teledensity and broadband penetration, and create a more competitive environment thanks to their triple paly solutions.

The incumbents, for their part, not to be outdone by any competitor, have launched their own triple play services, sometimes by acquiring existing cable TV operators, and sometimes by resorting to satellite TV or IPTV technology.

One of the consequences of triple play is the start of competition between cable TV and telecom operators. This is, of course, beneficial for customers, who have a greater choice between service providers. But in many countries, issues of market balance and fear of losing market share to competition have led to lengthy regulatory battles, involving cable TV companies, telecom operators, and regulatory authorities.

The result of these battles has normally favoured triple play, and this has led to an increase in the number of cable modem connections. Between 2001 and 2007, ADSL was gobbling up most of the broadband market, its share soaring sky-high throughout the region. But since 2008, cable modem has been regaining some of its lost ground.

The success of triple play has also pushed up the number of cable TV subscribers throughout the region and strengthened CATV companies, so that they were hardly affected by the financial crisis of 2008/09 – unlike the economic slump of 2001/02, which brought cable TV to its knees throughout Latin America.

Although many CATV networks are still analogue, digital cable is gradually establishing a foothold in Latin America. One of the reasons for the interest in digital cable has been the problem of cable TV piracy. Besides allowing for more advanced services, migrating to a digital platform enables providers to prevent signal theft, forcing any households involved to become paying subscribers if they wish to continue viewing cable TV.

The start of digital terrestrial TV in Latin America has been delayed by arguments over the standard to be adopted: USA’s ATSC, Europe’s DVB, or Japan’s ISDB. Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador have elected the ATSC standard; Uruguay and Colombia have opted for the DVB standard; Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela have chosen a modified form of the ISDB standard known as SBTVD. The remaining countries are still undecided.

There would have been clear advantages to having a regional common system, as this would have boosted economies of scale when importing television sets. But the decision in most Latin American countries is prompted more by political reasons than by technical ones, based on each government’s relations with the USA, Europe, or Japan.


Argentina’s pay television market is the most mature in Latin America. In fact, Argentina is a world leader in terms of pay TV penetration, with more than 50% of homes subscribed to pay TV services.


Convergence between telecom and pay TV operations is unclear under Brazilian legislation This has led to confusion and conflict, involving pay TV companies, telecom operators, and regulatory authorities. A draft bill is in the pipeline to allow IPTV services, which are prohibited by Brazilian telecom regulations.


When it comes to new technologies, Chile tends to be Latin America’s pioneer. The region’s first triple play, and IPTV services were launched in Chile. In September 2009, Chile adopted the Japanese standard ISDB-T/MPEG-4 for digital terrestrial TV services, with a ten-year period for analogue TV to be completely replaced by digital TV.


In Mexico the 3 main CATV providers have been incentivising the purchase of triple play bundles of cable TV, broadband and telephony, with great success. In early 2010 quadruple play appeared imminent as broadcasting giant Televisa received regulatory approval to acquire a stake in the mobile operator Nextel de Mexico. While in the satellite TV market, Dish Mexico has had early success with rapid subscriber growth and Axtel has also received regulatory approval to launch satellite TV and plans to begin offering triple-play services in 2010.

Markets highlights:

  • In Venezuela over 50 companies offer pay TV services, yet five operators have 86% of the market;
  • There are about 120 companies with a CATV licence in Uruguay;
  • Cable TV comprises approximately 88% of Argentina’s pay TV market;
  • Over 60 digital TV channels are authorised in Mexico.

Estimated Pay TV subscribers and penetration rates in select Latin American countries – 2009




Household penetration
















(Source: BuddeComm based on industry and company data)

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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