Watching TV in Thailand

In Thailand, we have the choice between six free television channels. Namely Channels 3, 5, 7, ModerNine TV and ITV. Channel 3 is the only one privately owned. Channel 5 is owned and run by the army. Channel 7 is also owned by the army but it uses independent production companies. Channel 9 (now renamed as ModerNine TV) is a national company and Channel 11 is run by the Ministry of Education. when I ask my students which channels they watch the most, they usually say either Channel 3 or Channel 7. To me, Thai TV seems to show much of the same with the over-the-top soap operas and game shows. But, a good way to practise your listening skills.

For expats living in Thailand, there is presently only one (legal) cable operator. That is UBC Television. It is possible to buy yourself a satellite and receive some international programs. However, only the UBC gives you a large number of English language channels. This, of course, comes at a price.

Last week, UBC re-organized their channels and are now offering three packages. These are called Silver, Gold and Platinum. Up to now we have been receiving 32 channels on the Gold Package. This costs us a princely sum of 1,412.97 baht per month (plus a 282.48 baht equipment rental). They have now added 10 new channels which will only be available to Platinum subscribers for an additional 500 baht per month! So, I have to make a decision soon as to whether it is worth spending 2000 baht per month on cable t.v. (actually we have a small satellite dish).

In order to promote the new channels, UBC are letting everyone watch these new channels for free. Clever, get you hooked first and then start charging extra. Of the new channels I am interested in are BBC Prime (classic and contemporary programs from the UK), TCM and MGM (two movie channels of classic movies) and maybe some programs on Star World (a collection of soaps and comedies mainly from the US). To be honest, it has been great catching up on some of the classic comedies from the UK that I haven’t seen for years (i.e. Blackadder and Fawlty Tower). However, they do seem to repeat them often.

So, what can we watch in Thailand for 2000 baht subscription per month? Here are some of the main ones:

* Six sports channels including ESPN and Star Sports
* Seven movie channels including HBO, Star Movies, Cinemax, Hallmark, UBC Film Asia, TCM and MGM
* Five news channels including CNN, BBC World, CNBC, Bloomberg and UBC News
* Four documentary channels including History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Animal Planet
* Four music channels including Channel V (Thailand), MTV, VH1 and STC
* Three cartoon channels including UBC Spark, Cartoon Network and Animax
* Eight entertainment channels including UBC Inside, UBC X-Zyte, AXN, Chic, UBC Series, E!, Star World an A1
* Distance Learning TV – one channel for each grade from Primary to High School. Great for learning Thai though presentation very much on the dull side. But, you can now learn Thai, Social Studies and other subjects along with fellow Primary 1 students!

There are also 30 digital radio stations and in the near future they are talking about pay-per-view t.v. where you can choose what movies you want to watch and when. Not bad, but at 2,000 baht per month, or 64 baht per day, you really need to decide whether it is worth it. Don’t forget, teachers at our school only get 6,000-8,000 baht per month. Only rich Thais and some expats can afford this kind of luxury.

I’ll let you know my decision at the end of the month when they scramble the new 10 channels. Will I go for it?

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