AFTER monopolising the cable industry in Trinidad and Tobago for years, the Cable Company of Trinidad and Tobago (CCTT) wants a bigger share of the pie. The company plans to hook up to the lucrative markets in other Caribbean countries. This from CCTT Chief Executive Officer Felipe Noguera, in a recent interview with Business Newsday, following the formal opening of CCTT’s offices in Chaguanas recently. Noguera boasted that CCTT was at the cutting edge of the telecommunications field and the rest of the Caribbean region is now fair game. Noguera said it was the company’s intention to take its successful experience in TT into the Caribbean region and wherever stakeholders are willing to participate. Asked why he was specifically targeting the Caribbean region, Noguera said it was a matter of timing, and the FTAA.
“As the Caribbean embarks on a single market-type economy and begins to engage the rest of the Hemisphere in the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the cable company and its affiliates can definitely contribute at a high percentage to the integration process of the Caribbean,” he said. Pushed for specifics, Noguera was not willing to say what exactly was in store for the Caribbean in terms of CCTT’s expansion. “Tell no lies, claim no easy victory,” he said. Currently, cable television is the only alternative to the local television audience whose choices of television stations are limited to two — CCN TV6 and the Government - controlled TTT. He said however there were a series of discussions being carried out in some Caribbean countries pertaining to the expansion of the cable company throughout the region. “I prefer to announce it (the expansion) after we have actually completed our plans rather than to make too many public statements which could prove to be inauspicious. But I can say there have been discussions, which have gone on for some time and there are more to be held in the future.”
Presently, CCTT is the sole provider of cable television service to over 85,000 subscribers in this country. He remains optimistic that once the demand is there, the company will meet it. “The cable company’s present aim is to scrutinise what is economically and socially desirable and once the necessary infrastructure is available and the market demand is there, then our intention is to meet that demand and provide customers with good programming and good services” Noguera said. “While cable is our core business, we want to be a part of the contribution to the development of the society in the information age, in terms of broadband access to the internet and other telecommunications services, which would become available in terms of regulations and liberalisation,” Noguera added. CCTT was born in 1990 when the Government of the day issued the necessary licenses. At the time, there were five or six licenses issued in the country.
Through a process of merger and acquisitions several independent cable companies merged into a single corporate entity under the name CCTT - Cable Company of Trinidad and Tobago. There are presently four cable hubs which service the country located in Port-of-Spain, Tacarigua, Chaguanas and San Fernando. According to Noguera, the demand for cable has grown steadily over the years, because people wanted to be in touch with the rest of the world. Noguera said that although this augured well for people wanting to be in touch with world issues, there were bad elements mixed in with the good ones. CCTT, within the last six months, he said, has been trying to balance foreign programmes with more local content with the introduction of Gayelle TV, Synergy TV and IE TV — Channels 7, 28 and 16 respectively.
“The effort is to simply present more local images to our customers by attempting to improve programme content, to reflect the reality of the people of Trinidad and Tobago in a positive way,” Noguera said. When asked about competition that exists between Direc TV, the local satellite provider and the CCTT, and how CCTT intends to beat this competition, Noguera said the market was big enough for everybody. “The market is big enough to have more than one service provider, whether it be by satellite or by cable, so we welcome any competition,” he said.
Noguera said one of the company’s marketing strategies was to work with the cable programmers to promote specific campaigns, for example the introduction of Boomerang, which came on stream from May 1 and the introduction of Lifetime Movie Network, which was recently launched. “We are working with programmers to introduce material to promote the viewership of the channels we carry on the cable system so that all can benefit from the cable experience,” Noguera said.
Cable providers without licences
Noguera touching on the issue of cable competition, said that while there were other suppliers of cable television in Trinidad, there was only one other licenced and legally operating provider which is based in Tobago. The other cable providers in Trinidad were operating without licenses and without authorisation, he said. Noguera claimed that these companies did not pay their taxes and CCTT had been trying to get the Government to level the playing field. CCTT, he said, wanted fair competition.
“We expect that the Government will probably license other companies to provide cable service and as a result we are gearing our employees to be ready for this competition,” he said. “Likewise, we have a marketing strategy to position and prepare our network services division to enter into other markets that would enable us to be competitive in providing more cost effective service.” Noguera also dismissed allegations that CCTT was engaged in illegal ‘tapping’ of cable feeds from satellite dishes and other means, saying everything CCTT engaged in was above board and would be able to stand up to private and Governmental scrutiny.