Posted: Tuesday, January 4, 2022. 6:31 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: There has been a quiet shake-up in the cable industry over the last few months, with one former giant acquired by a rival and another major player being jointly acquired by two others.
In the first case, Central Television and Internet (CTI), the former Baymen Cable Network, acquired Channel Broadcasting Cable (CBC) in November – its main competitor in Belize City and along the Western corridor. That transformed it into a power controlling cable and internet access for virtually all of the center and west of the country up to Cayo.
In the second case, as explained by its former owner Darren Duncker to us this afternoon, CTI and Orange Walk-based Centaur Cable Network are to become majority shareholders in his Southern Cable Network (SCN), based in Dangriga and primary operators in the South.
According to Duncker, he is not aware of the arrangement for ownership between CTI and Centaur and directed us to the former’s head, Pedro Lizarraga. But he explained that he and his family have long intended to get out of the business and concentrate on core family business, a move only exacerbated by COVID.
Duncker explained that the mergers of CTI and CBC (and Centaur and Baymen North network in Corozal) and the joint acquisition of SCN will provide a boost to internet services, which he said had become the dominant service provided by cable networks over actual cable. He anticipates much cheaper internet rates in the long run, which will help with a move to legitimized streaming services that will allow viewers to watch what they want, when they want, in conjunction with the rise of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services in the United States such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+.
“Cord-cutting” as it is known has greatly impacted the industry, but Duncker told us he believes cable companies can turn it to their advantage, describing cable these days as “almost an add-on to internet service,” a reversal of the situation just a few years ago.
It is also noteworthy that cable companies allied as the Belize Cable and Television Operators Association (BCTVOA) had to knuckle under after representatives of Home Box Office (HBO) in Latin America effectively forced a switch from the pirated U.S. version seen on most cable systems to the Latin American version in 2016. That also coincided with a rise in prices for cable subscription.
Duncker said concerns of two companies effectively controlling cable and internet service in mainland Belize (Coral Cable Vision has an effective monopoly over Ambergris Caye and Alternative Networks Limited, known as “Switch TV,” has part of the market in Cayo) would be left to the Belize Broadcasting Authority (BBA), which regulates aspects of broadcasting in Belize.
Centaur, it has to be noted for the record, is an enterprise within the family portfolio of Prime Minister John Briceño.
Channel 7 News reported on Monday that notice of a change in the board of Directors was sent to the Broadcasting Authority at the end of December.
According to Channel 7, the CTI-Centaur consortium also now operates a consolidated and critical national communications infrastructure – capable of sending both broadband internet and cable television on a scale that could someday rival BTL in terms of reach and expanse; in fact, Southern Cable owns one of only three carrier licenses in the country – BTL and Speednet own the others.
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