Latin American DTH operators DirecTV and ClaroTV are adding a number of new international and domestic channels in HD to their basic and extended offerings. DirecTV Panamericana which operates in nine territories including Argentina and Chile has already added 10 HD channels increasing its total offering to 30. These include Discovery Home & Health, Discovery Channel, Film Zone, Studio Universal, Nickelodeon, Golf Channel, Sundance, Fox Sports 2 and Nat Geo Wild. In addition, Nat Geo HD and Fox HD will now have their own separate slot where they previously shared one. Brazilian pay TV operator, ClaroTV is planning to add ESPN, Band Sports, Fox Sports 2 and Discovery Turbo in HD. Its current catalogue includes 28 HD networks including channels from the majority U.S based media groups.
Currently, the HD channel offering is much more limited in Latin America compared to the U.S and Canada with 34 unique HD channel brands in South America against 198 in North America belonging to the media groups covered by TV Channel Intelligence service. IHS Technology data shows that the number of HD subscribers in the region has been growing rapidly since 2010. Brazil accounts for approximately 70% of pay TV subscribers among the countries covered by IHS Television Media service. Brazil now offers a total of 95 unique channel brands across all platforms. IHS forecasts that by the end of 2015 there will be a 40% increase in HD subscriptions compared to last year and that figure is expected to surpass 19.5 million (with 11.4 million on DTH).
The major U.S based media groups have already established a strong presence across the Latin American territory. According to IHS Technology, Fox offers 23 unique HD channels while Viacom, A&E and Discovery have 10, nine and eight respectively. Fox intends to increase investment in local content to boost its international profits above $ 1 billion and started to replace the premium Moviecity brand by Fox Plus across Latin America at the end of 2014.
Data from the TV Channel Intelligence service shows that 70% of the HD channels belong to mid-tier packages, 22% in premium and only 8% as part of entry-level offerings. It is clear that by increasing the number of HD channels available, the operators are looking to attract more customers to their mid-tier packages in order to increase overall ARPUs. In addition, a new satellite, DLA-1, was launched in late 2014. It offers a large capacity that will allow DirecTV to add more channels both in SD and HD. DLA-1 will be placed in the same orbital spot as the satellite that is currently being used by the operator. As a result, subscribers in Latin America will not be required to do any alterations in their satellite dish placement or their set-to-box configurations. The Panamericana division of DirecTV is planning to start exploiting the new capabilities of DLA-1 in the first half of 2015. DirecTV also plans to launch a second satellite towards the end of the year which should allow for further expansion of the HD line up.