Switching off

Colombia struggles with digital TV transition as analogue holds on.

Television channels in Colombia have requested that the National Television Authority of Colombia (“ANTV”) delays the cessation of analogue emissions as the deployment of digital terrestrial television (“DTT”) remains incomplete throughout the country. 

A private television executive in Colombia complained, “According to an agreement reached in 2012, analogue broadcasts were supposed to cease in December 2019. Since then, TV operators and private channels have been educating their viewers about the benefits of DTT. The private channels have thus fulfilled their commitments but the national government has actions pending.”

“According to an agreement reached in 2012, analogue broadcasts were supposed to cease in December 2019.”

Television executive, Colombia

Although ANTV is prepared in terms of regulation to advance its plans, one of the main problems of continuing with the analogue television system is the electromagnetic space used by broadcasts, which could be used for faster internet services. This also limits the usability of DTT, particularly at a regional level. There are additional limitations derived from the strong presence of global high-profile media services such as Netflix and AmazonPrime, which has six million subscribers in Colombia.

The television executive agreed, “The technology is ready but unfortunately the implementation of DTT is not attractive because Colombia has a strong pay-for-tv culture and Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Channel etc are all doing very well.”

It is unclear when analogue television will cease to operate in Colombia after the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications carried out consultations in 2020 which resulted in the ANTV establishing a four-phased strategy for the digital switchover. The plan consisted of designing a pilot plan for the cessation of analogue emissions in two regions; a monitoring phase of the DTT coverage throughout the country; implementing a communication strategy promoting DTT; and offering services of support to the population for its installation.

“The slow DTT transition is a regional issue. Only Mexico has completed it in 2015 and that is because they started in 2004.”

Television executive, Colombia

Looking forward, an industry executive could only see more delays, “Analogue cessation was delayed from 2019 to 2020, then 2021, now 2022. The outlook is uncertain, some people are saying it will be delayed to 2024.”

In 2021, a number of towns in the regions of Magdalena, César, Santander, Sucre and Bolívar completed the digital switchover while the analogue system will be completely replaced by DTT in the Caribbean region this year. In Latin America, Panama has also delayed the digital television transition while Cuba is expected to complete the digital switchover in 2023. 

The television executive summarised, “The slow DTT transition is a regional issue. Only Mexico has completed it in 2015 and that is because they started in 2004. For the rest of the region, the transition date keeps getting pushed back.”

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