Television - it's the drug of a nation…in ways both big and small we're all addicted to TV - and if not addicted - we all need that "hit" from time to time.
And whether addict of casual viewer - now one of Belize's largest Cable providers - Central Cable Vision is coming with what might be called the high-grade - a new way of interacting with your cable TV signal.
Now, these kinds of things don't usually make the news - but Central Cable's new viewing platform represents a Sea of Change - and they've linked up with so many cable providers nationally - that the change will affected may thousands of cable viewers.
We found out more at the launching today:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
Pete Lizarraga - Managing Director, CCV
"We needed a product that would enhance the viewing quality of television. We need a product that would put the viewer more in control of the television set, rather than the other way around, where we manage our lives around the time that shows air on TV. And we needed a product that would lay the foundation for future services and expansion."
And the answer is DIBO- short for "Digital Boss" - and it is a television game changer. DIBO gives subscribers access to 225 channels - more than half of them digital and 40 of them high definition.
"Tonight at midnight, we all take off our existing digital channels, and we will launch 125 digital channels that will work with DIBO. If you do not have a DIBO - and well, it hasn't been marketed yet - you can auto tune your TV, and you will pick up 102 of these digital channels. And if you havea DIBO, you will pick up an additional 22 HD channels."
It also allows viewers to see a programme guide with multiple views - and perhaps most importantly it changes the viewer's relationship with television programming - allowing the viewer to pause live TV
"You simply press the pause button, and DIBO will initiate the recorder, and if I press pause, it pauses it the TV screen again. So, what we're going to do is that we're going to put all the local channels on our digital spectrum, so that you can record, pause, fast forward news, and make television viewing a lot simpler, and a lot easier. You won't be a slave to TV screen. If you don't get home at 6:30 in the evening to catch the evening news, you can record it and watch it at your own convenience."
It's a great feature - but it's only available with the use of an external hard drive, which then brings us to price. The DIBO box alone is 295 dollars - and a hard drive like this one central Cable offers will cost you an additional 150 dollars - a great product package - but at 500 dollars - the price point might be a little steep for the average consumer.
It's not exactly a cheap proposition - but Lizarraga says it will create more purposeful watching:
"Jules, what happens is that we have a lot of channels. I am an avid TV viewer myself, and when started adding channels up to 150 and 170, and I started flipping through channels, you flip, you have to watch, and you know what's on. You don't know if the movie is half way or a quarter of a way. This changes all that. With the touch of some buttons, this allows me to select what I want to see. It gives the information I need and cuts down my viewing time tremendously."
And with this innovation it also changes the landscape of the cable television business as Lizarraga's Central Cable has expanded into a super-provider, carrying a number of affiliates:
"Here in Belize, Belmopan, all the villages right down to San Ignacio, and we have other affiliates on our network. We have Benque Vejo Cable Network - so they will have that service too. We have Burrell Boom. We also have Northern Cable in Orange Walk. We are going to send it down south, hopefully to Southern Cable Network - so they will have it available - Baymen North in Corozal will shortly have it. So, we are hoping that sometime within the next 2 to 4 weeks, it will be almost in every district, probably with the exception of Punta Gorda. We have invested heavily in this technology, and we've done it because we think that it's going to change how people watch TV. By bringing in other affiliates and other networks to our fold, what we have to do is to lower the cost of this product to Belizean overall."
Eventually - it may become the industry industry standard - as the market changes
"In other words, we will be able to say we will sell a basic package for $35, $40, or whatever that price may be for 50 or 60 channels. And if you want 300 or 400 channel and you want to pay $75 or $100, then it will give the consumer a choice. If a parent wants just strictly an educational package for his/her child or children, DIBO will allow us the capacity to sell an educational package. That is what we call the beginning of the digital revolution."
but for the time being all the channels - 225 of them are available for $45.00 -and make no mistake he's doing this to strike a decisive blow to his competitors
"We think that it has now positioned us as the clear leader in the cable industry, and where that leaves the other companies - that's for them to answer, I suppose."
A few notes: First, in case it wasn't clear in the story, the 295 dollars for the DIBO box and the 150 dollars for the hard drive are one time fees - not monthly - the monthly rate remains at 45 dollars.
Tonight if you have a regular analog television you don't need to do anything - but when you wake up tomorrow, you'll have about 10 ten channels less - as these will migrate to the digital system.
As for the DIBO boxes - CCV sells them - but is working with Courts to offer them on a financing arrangement.