Govt should make serious efforts towards digitisation

MUMBAI: Digitisation is inevitable and the scale and potential of this business in India is huge. However, issues like fragmentation and delay in implementation is hurting the broadcasting industry on the whole. This was the consensus of the speakers at the CII Digital Media Conference that was held recently in Mumbai.

Setting the mood, Tata Sky CEO Vikram Kaushik pointed out that every year India is seeing a 25 per cent increase in cable television homes and analogue cable can only provide a limited number of channels. As the number of channels increase, there will be pressure to digitise and increase bandwidth.
“India is the only country in the world where we have six private direct-to-home (DTH) players who are in the business of volumes but not margins. We are working with ridiculous Arpus (average revenue per user),” Kaushik said.

He argued that there is no other way for digitisation apart from making it mandatory. “There is inequality in the value chain. Because we are addressable you can tax us. This is sheer inequality,” he said.

Everyone in the value chain is funding for themselves, but the question is till when? He also urged that government should incentivise the DTH players as they are addressable, transparent and pay tax, unlike local cable operators, who under declare their subscribers and erode the whole value chain.  
Bharti Airtel director and CEO - Airtel Digital TV Ajai Puri, while speaking on the pay vs free market, agreed that unaddressability is the biggest hurdle. He said that cable today covers about 100 million homes. All channel bouquets put together cost around Rs 1,400, while the consumer pays only Rs 200-250 per month. Moreover, the money is accounted from only 10-12 million homes due to under declaration by the local cable operators, he said.

Den Networks chairman Sameer Manchanda stressed that we are still an unstructured and predominantly analogue cable industry. “We are still to move from analogue to digital,” he said.

MSO Alliance president Ashok Mansukhani said that 97 per cent of cable in India is non-addressable. He asked for licencing of the LCOs and urged the government not to control pricing. “Government should lift price control and allow a la carte pricing," he said.

Digicable MD and CEO JagJit Singh Kohli said, “If DTH would not have happened, digitisation would have been a dream.” As the industry players are working towards digitisation, it should see exponential growth, he added.

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