By Robert Briel
Published: October 26, 2010 08.03 Europe/London

CASBAA has announced that pay-TV in Asia has reached the tipping point of 50% penetration of all Asian TV homes. This development opens the door to massive growth in ad revenues over the next five years.

According to Asia Pacific pay-TV industry research carried out by CASBAA (The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia), pay-TV services now connect with almost 363 million homes in Asia, surpassing North America, where pay-TV reaches 121 million.

Pay-TV penetration varies dramatically across the region. South Korea, with a penetration rate of 99%, has the highest penetration, while Indonesia with a penetration of 3% of TV homes has the lowest. Growth in the pay-TV industry is primarily driven by India (75% penetration of all TV homes) and China (48%) but Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam are contributing significantly to this growth.

Nevertheless, in terms of revenues earned, pay-TV in Asia continues to lag behind North America and Western Europe in both penetration and revenues. According to data firm SNL Kagan, in North America, pay-TV reaches 87.7% of households and generated $102.50 billion (€73 billion) in revenues in 2010, while Western Europe enjoys penetration of 61.9% and revenues of $41.04 billion. In 2010 pay-TV in Asia will generate a little over $30 billion from its 50% penetration rate.

“Asia now leads the world in multichannel TV connections, with growth only expected to accelerate. With more than 50% penetration across the region and the lion’s share of the high net worth audience, subscription TV is more attractive than ever to subscribers, advertisers and investors,” said Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of CASBAA, in a statement.

Another insight offered by CASBAA during its annual Convention in Hong Kong is that, according to an annual piracy survey by CASBAA and Standard Chartered Bank, over $2 billion will have been lost to piracy this year. CASBAA noted that this loss, while high, does not include revenues lost to internet piracy.

Revenues lost through piracy damage not just pay-TV operators, but also regional governments. Research undertaken by PwC reveals that at least $262 million is lost annually from government coffers. This includes lost corporate profits tax in 2010 of $195 million and VAT/GST ($67 million). According to CASBAA, governments worst hit by piracy include Thailand, Pakistan and the Philippines.