SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's three major telecommunications firms are to enter heated competition to expand their presence in the local pay TV market, industry insiders said Thursday, as more cable TV operators are up for sale.
According to sources, the owner of Central Multi Broadcasting (CMB) Co., the nation's fourth largest cable TV firm, recently decided to sell the company. The country's No. 3 cable TV operator, D'Live Co., and No. 5 player, Hyundai HCN Co., have also been put up for sale.
CMB's latest decision may offer a good chance for the three telecom firms -- KT Corp., SK Telecom Co. and LG Uplus Corp. -- to further expand their presence in the pay TV market through merger and acquisition deals.
LG Uplus and SK Telecom already bulked up in the pay TV market by acquiring the country's leading cable TV operators.
Last year, LG Uplus took over the country's largest cable TV firm CJ Hello Co., now named LG HelloVision Corp., while SK Telecom saw its affiliate SK Broadband Co. merge with the No. 2 cable TV service provider t-broad Co. earlier this year.
Including shares of its affiliates, KT was the leader in the pay TV market with 31.52 percent as of end-2019, followed by LG Uplus with 24.91 percent and SK Telecom with 24.17 percent, according to data from the country's ICT ministry.
But depending on the sales of the three cable TV firms, the pay TV market rankings could change.
D'Live's pay TV market share stood at 5.98 percent last year, the ministry data showed, while that of CMB and Hyundai HCN reached 4.58 percent and 3.95 percent, respectively.
The three major telecom firms have all reportedly submitted initial bids to acquire Hyundai HCN last month and are currently conducting due diligence.
South Korea's telecom operators have been quickly expanding their presence in the local pay TV market with internet protocol television (IPTV) services. The number of IPTV users in the nation already exceeded cable TV subscribers in November 2017.
As of last year, IPTV users accounted more than half of the pay TV subscribers in the country.
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