MSOs, broadcasters want digitisation deadline to stay put

GOA: Multi-system operators (MSOs) and broadcasters do not want the digitisation deadline in the four metros to be deferred, industry leaders said at the Indian Digital Operators Summit (IDOS) 2012 in Goa.

"Going by the investments we are making, the way we are progressing with content deals with broadcasters and the pace at which we are seeding the set-top boxes (STBs), there is no reason to believe that anybody wants deferment of digitisation," said Den Networks CEO S N Sharma.

Agreed Videocon d2h CEO Anil Khera. "The government‘s bold decision on FDI gives us the confidence that the digitisation deadline will not be changed," he said.

Consumers can see merit in digitisation and the viewing experience is making a difference. "We are offering 22 HD channels. There will be 3 million HD flat panel TV sets sold in this country," Khera averred.

According to Sharma, it is in nobody‘s interest to delay digitisation. The MSOs are serious and are installing STBs rapidly. Joint consumer awareness campaigns have been launched. "They will gain as the business model transforms completely from B2B to B2C. There is also scope for local cable channels, which will be a key differentiator between cable TV and DTH service providers," he elaborated.

Ortel Communications Ltd. co-founder and MD Jagi Mangat Panda cautioned the industry not to get too carried away by transparency (currently local cable operators under-report their subscriber numbers). Broadcasters and MSOs will have to work together to offer choice to consumers. "As bandwidth opens, broadcasters will have to meet this huge consumer demand (for varied content). Like in the US, this can be done by broadcasters joining hands with MSOs," she said.
Panda also warned that MSOs would not be able to compete with DTH on pure digital play. The only way to win is by building fat pipes and offering broadband. "We shouldn‘t get stuck with transparency. If we don‘t do broadband, DTH will beat us hollow," she said.

Raman Kalra, head of media & entertainment at IBM for India and South Asia, stressed on the need for having a forward-looking perspective. "The fat pipe of cable has been effectively exploited by players like Netflix and Hulu. Reliance Industries is also going to launch 4G and we know how they can bring down prices. I see a little amount of preparedness lacking among the cable TV companies in India at this moment," he cautioned.

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