Subscription providers are available, with differences in the number of channels, capabilities such as the programme guide (EPG), video on demand (VOD), high-definition (HD), interactive television via the red button, and coverage across Thailand. Set-top boxes are generally used to receive these services. Households viewing TV from the internet are not tracked by the Thai government.
This is currently the traditional way of receiving television in Thailand, however it has now largely been supplanted by digital providers. There are 6 channels; three of them are government public-owned by MCOT the 2 television channels terrestrial free-to-air Channel 9 MCOT HD and TV3; TV5, BBTV CH7 are owned by Royal Thai Army; NBT and Thai PBS are fully government-owned. Analogue terrestrial transmissions were scheduled to be switched off in phases as part of the digital switchover, which was expected to be completed in 2020 in line with ASEAN recommendations, however, the changeover has yet to come into effect.
Provincial television was discontinued in 1988, replaced by NBT, which has two hours of local programming in each of the provinces.
In 2005, the Ministry of Information announced their plan to digitalise nationwide free-to-air TV broadcasts led by MCOT. Trial broadcasts were undertaken, involving one thousand households in Bangkok from December 2000 till May 2001. In December 2013, NBTC set up series of auction for DTTV. Four types of licenses are offered as followed: High-Def. channel license, Standard-Def. channel license, News channel license and Youth/Family channel license. All the major operators and content owners in the industry won the bid for new licenses e.g. BEC World, Bangkok Broadcasting and TV, GMM Grammy, ThaiRath Newspaper, Nation Multimedia Group, True Visions etc. According to the license condition, DTTV services launched since April 2014.
Thailand's sole satellite television operator, Thaicom launched the TrueVisions service in 1998. It currently holds exclusive rights from the Thai government to offer satellite television broadcasting services in the country through the year 2017. The rights was extended to 2022 recently. Now, big ugly dishes are still found in Thailand.
There are also laws preventing too many advertisements from being aired on both radio and television, similar to the United Kingdom.
All national cable TV in Thailand must accept by MCOT, The first provider is International Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) in 1989, next one is Thai Sky TV in 1991 (but off-air in 1997). Universal TV cable network (UTV) is the third provider in 1993. But after Asian financial crisis, UTV merged with IBC in 1998, changed it name to United Broadcasting Corporation or UBC (TrueVisions in present) and be monopoly provider.
In contrast to Internet TV, IPTV refers to services operated and controlled by a single company, who may also control the 'Final Mile' to the consumers' premises.
True Move provide mobile television services for reception on third generation mobile phones. They consist of a mixture of regular channels as well as made for mobile channels with looped content. True Move H TV now offers more than 20 channels to True-H 3G subscribers who own compatible mobile phones. Yet, True is expected to roll out broadcast mobile TV services based on DVB-H in the near future.
Television received via the Internet may be free, subscription or pay-per-view, multicast, unicast, or peer-to-peer, streamed or downloaded, and use a variety of distribution technologies. Playback is normally via a computer and broadband Internet connection, although digital media receivers or media centre computers can be used for playback on televisions, such as a computer equipped with Windows Media Center.
The audience share achieved by each terrestrial channel in Thailand is shown in the first table below. The second table shows the share each channel receives of total TV advertising spending. BBTV CH7 is both the most popular and most commercially successful station with just under 50% of the total audience followed by TV3 at just under 30%. The other terrestrial stations share the remaining 20% of the TV audience between them.
Market Share - Share of total TV advertising spending:
Soap operas are a popular genre of Thai television. They are known in Thai as ละครโทรทัศน์ (rtgs: lakhon thorathat, lit. "television play") or simply ละคร (lakhon, pronounced [la.kʰɔːn], also spelled lakorn). They are usually shown every night at primetime on Thai television channels and start at 20:30. An episode of a prime-time drama is usually two hours long (including commercials). Each series usually is a finished story, unlike Western "cliffhanger" dramas, but rather like Hispanic telenovelas.
A series will run for about three months. It may air two or three episodes a week, the pattern usually being Monday–Tuesday, Wednesday–Thursday or Friday–Sunday. A channel will air three soap operas simultaneously at any given time. Because they attract the most viewers, each channel competes for the most popular stars.
Thai soap operas have very distinctive, though formulaic, characters and narrative conventions. Though some stray from these conventions, most adhere to them, especially ones that are very popular among Thai viewers.They are always about achieving a perfect ending in which the leading characters marry their soulmates and live happily ever after.
The two main lovers are established at the beginning of the series. Viewers have no difficulties singling them out of the crowd for they tend to be the most popular soap opera stars of the moment. The male lead role usually called Phra Ek (พระเอก) as the main actress had named Nang Ek (นางเอก)
The presence of one "bad" female character, sometimes more, is commonplace. This is the person who is totally in love with the male lead and will do all that is necessary to stop the two would-be lovers from fulfilling their destined ending. She tries everything to be the main actor's girlfriend and always tries to get rid of the main actress. She is often a stereotypical character who does not hesitate to do bad, bad things to the main actress including trying to steal her boyfriend before the wedding. She is often a rich girl or comes from a good family background, but has nasty behaviour and is manipulative. Few of these characters are kind. She is usually a living person, but a few of these characters can be evil, dead women who come back as ghosts. The most popular ones are Poot Mae Nam Khong or the remake of Pob Pee Fa. Nang Rai or Nang Itcha (นางอิจฉา) is a famous name for Thai viewers.
"Katoei" (กะเทย – man dressed like a woman) are often used as comic relief. Sapai Look Tung is popular for this role.
In the end, all conflicts in the story must be resolved. Everyone forgives each other. The "bad" guys receive their punishments and the "good" guys receive their rewards. However, some series end with unsolvable problems such as Poot Mae Nam Khong.
Thai soap operas are often melodramatic to the point of becoming camp. Most productions are written and produced with the assumption that the more melodramatic it is, the better. This is why situations are grossly exaggerated, actions are overly theatrical, and screams and shrieks (from the bad female) numerous.