Cable TV

Siti Cable and Dish TV join hands to form ‘Comnet’

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MUMBAI: Dr Subhash Chandra led Essel Group believes in innovation and how. The two companies from the group, multi system operator (MSO) Siti Cable Network and direct to home (DTH) player Dish TV have formed a joint venture (JV) to deal with the ever growing content cost. Christened ‘Comnet’, the JV will help synergise the strengths of both the organisations in dealing with broadcasters.

Essel Group has synergies in broadcast, cable, DTH and over the top (OTT) services. “When we look at either of these platforms, the key to its existence is content. The cost of content today is increasing rapidly and at a pace with which even the connections in the market aren’t growing,” tells Siti Cable CEO VD Wadhwa to indiantelevision.com.

According to Wadhwa, while the consumer average revenue per user (ARPU) levels is increasing in single digits, broadcasters, who sign one-year deals with distribution platforms, expect the revenues grow anywhere between 20-60 per cent. “This is impractical, unsustainable and is no way any business model will evolve or work,” he adds.  

The reason both Dish TV and Siti Cable have come together is to be able to make the best use of each other’s advantages and disadvantages. While DTH doesn’t enjoy as much carriage as cable gets, when it comes to content deals, DTH platforms have an upper hand. “While my input cost, which is the content cost is growing at a fast pace, I am not being able to drive the market price. If consumer ARPUs remain low, we can’t allow the content cost to go up. Also considering both the platforms target the same set of consumers in the market, it made more sense for us to join hands to deal with broadcasters,” informs Wadhwa.

Dish TV CEO RC Venkateish says, “This move will help both the entities to provide quality content at affordable price to consumers.”

Both, the DTH and cable platform currently is unable to pass on the increased input cost to the customer. “And then there are the additional taxes. The Delhi government recently increased the entertainment tax from Rs 20 to Rs 40, not realizing that it is a price sensitive market. Neither the consumer nor the broadcaster is ready to take the burden of the increasing cost. In order to protect our business model and remain a consumer friendly company and comply with all the rules and regulations, we thought of coming together,” he says.  

The JV will help the duo in not just controlling deals with broadcasters, but also in sourcing equipments. “Both Dish TV and Siti Cable need set top boxes. There are a lot of synergies if we work together,” he adds.

Between Siti Cable and Dish TV, the two currently have more than 2 crore subscribers, which in the next two years, according to Wadhwa will go up to 4 crore. “If we are currently present in 2 crore households, we are talking of almost 9-10 per cent of India’s population. This gives us a lot of leverage,” he says.

According to Wadhwa, while the broadcasters have already come together to work for the advantage of the broadcasting sector, the distribution platforms too need to work in a synergy. “While that is currently not possible, at least the two companies in the group should start working together immediately,” he opines.

As part of the JV, the duo will hold joint discussions with broadcasters, taking joint call on the deals. “If the broadcaster wants to arm twist Siti Cable, it has to be careful that Dish TV may also react or vice versa,” he informs.  

Starting 1 July, 2015, it is ‘Comnet’ that will do the negotiations with broadcasters for both the platforms together. Post that, a direct contract between the broadcaster and the distribution platform will be signed. “The benefit will be shared between Dish TV and Siti Cable,” concludes Wadhwa.

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