GOA: Digitisation of the cable television industry within India continues to drive opportunities for the entire media ecosystem, but more importantly for the consumer. Already two crore households in DAS phase I and II areas are seeing digital quality television with typically over 350 channels now being available. However, the opportunities that digitisation offers both operators and consumers does not stop there and goes on to create an expansive and often new ecosystem in which companies and entrepreneurs are developing new products that enable, enhance, supplement or complement the linear digital cable television offering.
The combined session on “Hidden Gems Riding the Digital Wave” and “New Media Monetisation” at the end of the first day of IDOS 2013 was moderated by Castle Media director Vynsley Fernandes, and proved to be an eye-opener on just how many opportunities lie within the ecosystem of digitisation and the prospects it offers entrepreneurs and companies.
In the US, cable digitisation had the complementary effect of giving fixed broadband a boost that saw it grow exponentially from just seven million subscribers in 2000 to over 89 million subscribers in 2012. This was echoed by IBM India’s executive director and partner Raman Kalra who pointed out that “the cable industry in the US managed to come back to profitability post digitisation only when they transformed themselves as triple play and quad play service providers... likewise in India it would be essential for digital operators to align their strategy for broadband and work in parallel on multi-screen applications.”
With connectivity directly into the home, broadband provides one of highest ARPUs for operators in the US, enabling services like OTT, web streaming and eCommerce. The same will be true for India where internet is expected to contribute $241 billion or 5.6 per cent of India’s GDP by 2016, and this will be driven by the capability of digitisation to provide fast and reliable broadband to more consumers than ever before. It was clear from the session that last mile owners have been looking to the future and are already laying fiber across large tracts of cities and towns in India with a view of being able to start to offer these services in conjunction with their existing television offerings.
Interestingly, the major MSOs at the moment are also expected to continue technology shopping - this time around for software solutions - as their businesses now have to be more consumer focused. The effect these moves are having on the technology and PE sectors is profound. There are large corporations rushing in from all over the world, they are expanding their India offices, buying smaller companies and re-engineering their offerings for Indian realities. On the other side, brand new startups are coming in to specifically address the opportunities and there are funds chasing these startups. And as What’s-On CEO Atul Phadnis pointed out, “Whether these are software product companies looking at billing, CRM, etc or App companies or content aggregators or analytics solutions or VOD/ OTT platforms - the market is showing a very vibrant energy that will reshape and expand the domestic cable ecosystem that so far has been missing or been too small.”
Broadband access into the home or direct to the Last Mile Owner (LMO) enables companies such as Zenga TV to offer specialised and exclusive free content streaming services direct to consumers. Zenga TV CTO & MD ShabirMomin discussed how “the service is already reaching 22 million subscribers in India”, and is personalised to the extent that “he can now offer even Japanese channels to as few as 100 subscribers in India who want to be able to access content that is not available on any television platform”. The power of this type of service is immense, when considering that there are many consumers who want access to very specialist content and would even pay premiums for access to this content within India. LMOs or MSOs are able to connect directly into the Zenga TV platform over fibre to ensure quality delivery direct to the consumer.
But the opportunities do not stop there. Cisco senior business development manager for APAC Fabien Gauthier talked about the fact that India is clearly on the cusp of growth in terms of embracing new technologies driven out of the need for focused and targeted analytics. “Major players around the world are already taking advantage of Cisco’s Videoscape Unity platform which enables targeted advertising at the STB level to different demographics within the household itself which work in both one-way and two-way television services.” By trickle-feeding adverts directly into the STB PVR, it is now possible for broadcasters to play personalised adverts based on who they believe is watching the television that ensures the most effective advertising that there is available.
Amagi co-founder Srinivasan K A discussed the opportunities that broadcasters should take from the 10+2 advertising cap to further target their advertising to optimise revenues. He pointed out that “a 10+2 advertising cap can be easily multiplied simply by making the advertising in different regions more targeted. A cricket match that would display advertising in Tamil for Tamil Nadu, Bengali for West Bengal, and Marathi for Maharashtra would have far more impact for the advertisers than the traditional model of a single advert for all”, with digitalisation facilitating this.
Exset global head - sales and marketing Rahul Nehra, discussed the limitations of STBs currently rolled out in the market to be able to enhance their service offerings much beyond linear television. “To be able to harness the power of one-way and two-way value added services via the STB, it is critical to deploy platforms that can support this. These can be large drivers for further revenue opportunities for both MSOs and LMOs.”
Applications or “apps” are another growing phenomenon and digital pipes will only see it expand. Whilst the full revenue potential is yet to be optimised, NDTV senior VP - strategy Kawaljit Singh Bedi said that it is imperative for content companies to reinvent themselves akin to NDTV, “which has grown beyond a conventional news network to a news content provider, accessible anytime and anywhere on a host of platforms”.
All things being said, there was one clear message - Digitisation has created a new ecosystem.The challenge and opportunity thereafter will lie in being able to optimise these networks and effectively a slew of disparate systems. It is now up to companies to take advantage and take the Indian consumers’ “experience” to the next level.