Cable TV

MSOs, LCOs upbeat about Hinduja’s NXT Digital HITS platform

MUMBAI: The Indian television industry is bracing itself for the third phase of digitisation as the deadline for Digital Addressable System (DAS) ends on 31 December, 2015.

Phase III deadline of digitisation is what the broadcast ecosystem has been talking for a year now. While on the one hand, the government of India has time and again made it clear that there will be no extension of deadline, which is 31 December, 2015, on the other, stakeholders are pointing fingers at the system as the teething issues like inter-connect agreement (ICA), CPS deals et al are yet to be taken care of. In a recent notice the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) headed by Arun Jaitley and MoS RajyavardhanSingh Rathore, has asked broadcasters to stop beaming analogue signals to all MSOs. Now with only days to go, people are still unclear as to what’s ahead.

Amidst the chaos of litigations between stakeholders and various pot-shots being fired, Hinduja’s Headend In The Sky (HITS) platform NXT Digital found its calm in doing actual ground work before launch.

Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter once said, “Leaders must pick causes they won’t abandon easily, remain committed despite setbacks, and communicate their big ideas over and over again in every encounter.” And that’s exactly what the team helming NXT Digital did. Prior to its launch on 16 September, the HITS platform carried out road shows involving Last Mile Operators (LMOs) in over 19 cities spread across the length and breadth of the country to communicate the new idea.

While the initial reactions from the operators weren’t that encouraging, the lack of collaboration on-ground between existing MSOs and LCOs turned out to be a blessing in disguise for NXT Digital, which in turn fuelled its penetration into the hinterland. Now, MSOs and LCOs that spoke to are upbeat about the new platform.

An independent MSO from the North Eastern Province tells, “I recently invested Rs 50 lakh to establish a cable head-end but as of now I don’t know how much I will be charging the consumers. The Cost Per Subscriber (CPS) model is not even talked about yet. Broadcasters are giving out different deals to different MSOs. If anybody asks me for a suggestion, I would tell them to go for HITS as it is a much more transparent platform.”

Another impeding problem that the industry will soon face is a serious crisis of Set-Top-Boxes (STBs). While the boxes are assembled in India, the components are still being shipped from China. “The components have not yet been ordered. While a few have placed the first round of orders, there are many who are yet to do that. It takes three months for the components to be delivered from China and then an additional one month to assemble them. So it is certain that the boxes will not reach on time. The STB crisis will be there for NXT Digital too,” said a senior official of an established MSO.

However, NXT Digital is unperturbed. A senior official of the company says, “There was going to be a set-top box crisis and we always knew about it. Hence we placed an order for four million boxes and there are close to 1.1 million boxes available for us at this stage. So NXT Digital is pretty sorted from the STB point of view.”

If sources are to be believed, Star is charging Rs 38 for its bouquet in DAS Phase III areas, whereas the Zee bouquet costs close to Rs 30. Sony Pictures Networks India (erstwhile Multi Screen Media) is pricing its bouquet at Rs 24, while India Cast is charging Rs 20.

On the other hand, NXT Digital is charging Rs 71 per box. “It’s a good deal. It’s just that they don’t have Zee in their package yet. But I don’t think it will take long for them to get them in,” says a reputed member of a Southern cable federation. “They are giving a total of over 300 channels and if there is a spike in demand, they have the infrastructure to meet it too. So it’s a good long term investment.”

NXT Digital follows a prepaid model, which the Indian ecosystem is not yet used to. “That’s not really a big issue; people usually get used to it. I am getting a lot of positive feedback from the industry about the HITS platform. However, there’s one thing that I will request Mr Tony to look at and that is the exchange of STBs. People are not ready to forget the STB investment that they have already made to have one. If they give an exchange offer, it would be great for us,” opines an LMO.

Now it remains to be seen how NXT Digital proceeds further and to what extend they succeed in capitalising the hinterlands.

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