Potential digital TV bidders say network rental rates are reasonable to run their new channels in the long term.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) approved rental rates on Monday. Thai PBS will charge 4.6 million baht a month for a standard-definition (SD) channel and 13.81 million baht for a high-definition (HD) channel, while the Public Relations Department's rates were 4.65 million baht for SD channels and 13.95 million baht for HD ones.
The Royal Thai Army will offer 4.72 million baht a month for SD channels and 14.16 million baht for HD and MCOT Plc will charge 4.76 million baht for SD channels and 14.28 million baht for HD channels.
Pramote Choksirikulchai, adviser to the managing director of Thai TV 3, which is owned by BEC World Plc, said the rates are affordable and almost equal to the existing annual broadcast concession paid to MCOT.
Currently, Channel 3's signal transmission cost is low compared to content production costs. Soap operas cost 1 million baht per episode to produce.
"Once the bidders know their fixed costs, they must prepare their channel's position in order to draw target audiences," Mr Pramote said.
Chalakorn Panyashom, vice-president for television business at Workpoint Entertainment Plc, said the network rental rates are affordable but the regulator should reconsider the issue of rates during network expansion in the first two years.
Arak Ratboriharn, CEO of Solution Corner 1998, the operator of Spring News satellite TV channel, said the rates are acceptable even though they do not include signal transmission costs via satellite under the must-carry rule.
Jessada Promjart, chief financial officer of MCOT, a licensed network provider, said rental rates can be lowered, depending on private negotiations. If the leasing contracts are longer, such as three to five years, the rates can be reduced.
Col Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee, said bidders must be careful about the increase to be in line with their plans as they have ceilings for digital TV auctions, operation costs and content budgets.
"I believe rental rates will be lower in the next three to five years once signal compression technology is more effective such as MPEG5," Col Natee said.
He expressed confidence that there will be more than seven bidders for HD channels, although the cost is much higher than other categories _ variety SD, news and children's channels.