Are the fruits of digitisation really being harvested?

GOA: The first session was on how digitisation has progressed and how it is no longer just a goal but the means to a critical end and a sweet spot for the convergence of national economic benefit, advanced infrastructure and content democratisation coverage.

The panel for addressing this topic had TRAI principal advisor N Parmeshwaran, DEN Networks chairman and CEO Sameer Manchanda, Tata Sky CEO Harit Nagpal and Star India president & general counsel Deepak Jacob. The session was moderated by Anil Wanvari and Vivek Couto.

?The entertainment and media space is doing much better as compared to earlier times and is a booming sector now just like how the IT sector was in the early 90s,? says Parmeshwaran.

According to a recently released CII-PwC report the media and entertainment industry in India was valued at Rs 96,500 crore in 2012 witnessing a rise of nearly 20 per cent from the Rs 80,500 crore in the preceding year (2011).

Says Parmeshwaran, ?TRAI has been doing its bit to help out in bringing systems in order by passing various recommendations, consultation papers on interconnect agreements and also streamlining the distribution process.?

Over the past few months the regulator has really been pressing for the completion of phase II of digitisation, setting strict deadlines for submission of CAFs and also instructing the MSOs to maintain proper subscription management systems (SMS). But the idea is not just to install boxes and collect forms.

Nagpal says, ?The idea is to bring in processes, understand consumer behavior and more importantly focus on the content being provided, rather than just giving numbers of boxes installed and CAFs collected.?

TRAI has also been trying to address issues on direct billing, the segmentation of aggregators and broadcasters and also regarding media ownership along with giving its recommendation on the TV ratings system.

?TRAI is open to helping out anyone who is looking out for helping improve the media and entertainment segment. We have enhanced the FDI limit to 100 per cent for carriage fees and 49 per cent for the news and FM radio segment recently,? stresses Parmeshwaran.

The DTH segment has certainly made progress as far as numbers go with nearly 26.7 million STBs being installed by 31 March 2013 and this number is expected to reach a huge number of 135 million STBs by end of December 2014.

Manchanda feels that in the next five years these numbers will witness a phenomenal change. ?The current situation is causing pain to everyone - broadcasters, aggregators, MSOs and consumers - but looking at the bigger picture is important and progress will be made accordingly.?

The need of the hour is for all the stakeholders to come together and nourish the ecosystem and the change will come in the next 12 to 24 months. ?Currently everyone is trying to save their own bedrock, but what is needed is to go that extra mile and cater to the needs of the consumers, the consumer is just looking for the best quality to experience and once we do that, ARPUS will no longer be an issue,? adds Manchanda.

There is a problem that is faced by DTH service providers wherein they are forced to carry many of the channels that they do not really wish to but have to because of the aggregators, ?even the consumer doesn?t really see the need to see these channels, so why should I carry it?? argues Nagpal.

TRAI had recently issued a consultation paper asking for comments from stakeholders on the matter of unbundling channels from the same network in the bouquets provided by the aggregators  and received more than 100 comments and is still in the process of going through all the comments to reach a decision on the matter.

Speaking on the prospect of meeting the phase III and IV deadlines Jacob opines, ?There were 35 million STBs installed and CAFs collected during phase I and II put together and there are another 30-35 million STBs and CAFs to be accounted for in just the next three months, it?s going to be chaotic and will leave no time for LCOs and MSOs to breathe.?

So with phase II of digitisation being completed and on the cusp of nearing the phase III and IV, it is yet to be seen how things progress and how India can meet the dream of becoming a completely digitised country.

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