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Cable cost to rise

By Benjamin Flowers
Staff Reporter

While Belizeans have seen the cost of various goods and services rising consistently in recent months, the cost of cable will also be going up as early as June 1, to assist cable service providers in managing the cost of becoming compliant with international copyright laws.

Evan Tench, president of the Belize Cable Television Operators Association, said that the price will be going up from $45 to around $60 a month for the new ‘basic package offerings’. Tench explained that Belizeans traditionally enjoyed premium movie channels and pay-per-view sporting events, such as championship boxing matches, at a fraction of the actual cost because the content had long been pirated.

He noted that Belize has a trade agreement with the United States, in which agricultural produce from Belize is given preferential treatment in exchange for certain undertakings, a part of which is becoming copyright compliant, which means obtaining licenses for the aired content and paying the required fees. The government of Belize is currently leading the push for copyright compliance because failure to do so would jeopardize the agreement.

Tench said that the providers are currently almost 60 percent compliant with international copyright laws, and are aggressively seeking to become compliant by as early as the end of 2018. The cable operators are in the process of having negotiation meetings with various producers of content such as HBO, ESPN, the Discovery Channel, and Disney. Those negotiations will also help to determine the prices for other premium packages.

Providers are currently meeting with HBO and are hoping to finalize an agreement by the end of the month, which will give subscribers access to around 16 channels from HBO’s list including Sci-Fi, Telemundo; History; Lifetime; E!; and one premium movie channel, Cinemax. Providers are also negotiating to have the service “HBO GO” and the HBO “On Demand” library, available as a part of package deals.
The providers are also meeting with the entity Televisa, which has the rights for many Mexican boxing matches.

Tench said that the increase in the cost of cable and the availability of services like those offered by Netflix, Hulu, and Roku, all serve to compound the issues providers will face following the price increase. He added, however, that cable providers are working on agreements to ensure that customers have incentive to continue using cable, such as content not available for streaming and bundle packages which will offset the cost paid by adjusting the price for another service such as internet.

Globally, alternatives such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Roku and others have put pressure on cable companies to remain competitive as online streaming services become more popular and accessible. These services are available by monthly subscriptions, which are paid by credit card.

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