Indian cable TV industry is extremely dynamic, says Indiantelevision.com CEO

We continue the countdown to FRAMES 2003 with an interview with Indiantelevision.com founder and CEO Anil Wanvari. At the convention, he will moderate entire session on 'Conditional Access System: A mid term review'.

Is the cable industry upto the challenges of Set Top Boxes and addresability?

The Indian cable TV industry is extremely dynamic, proactive, technologically savvy and has evolved to attain a high degree of service orientation even without the so-called sophistication that some of the international cable TV systems have.

It has grown to the status of more than 48 million cable TV homes connected, and more passed, primarily through the private initiative of individuals who chose to become cable TV operators. They did not need foreign capital, nor did they need governmental aid or guidance.

In fact, cable TV operators are hemmed in by a very high rate of taxation in the shape of entertainment tax which various state governments levy on them. And yet they have managed to increase the bouquet of offerings they provide to viewers at a fraction of the cost that other viewers internationally would be paying in their countries. Rs 200-350 per month in cable TV charges is almost a fraction of what a bouquet of channels would cost in the US or even south-east Asia. Someday, 100 channels in India will end up costing cable TV viewers in the vicinity of Rs 1,700 a month.

Cable TV operators along with the MSOs have the werewithal to take the industry into the conditional access regime. 14 July is the deadline drawn up by the government to roll out CAS. Going by the cable TV operators track record, it may well meet it. But the other elements in the CAS chain - broadcasters, subscription management system software suppliers, set top box manufacturers, government etc - will also have to work in tandem with them for the rollout to happen on schedule.

Will convergence ever occur?

Convergence has already started to occur. What may take time to realise is Internet driven convergence. Telecom driven convergence is already upon us. Take Reliance Infocomm: you can watch promos of Sony Entertainment shows on the CDMA handsets, you can watch Aaj Tak news too. The picture quality needs improvement, but the point is we are watching television on a telephone handset.

How will CAS redifine the role of the broadcaster, the MSO and the last mile operator ?

This will depend on the type of CAS regime that will come into play in the Indian market. Will it be HITS or will it be individual cable operator driven CAS? Both are likely to co-exist. The entire trade will be grappling with the evolution of CAS at least for another two to three years. Possibly even more.

A greater degree of service orientation will come in amongst all the elements in the CAS chain, the entire trade will have to be nimble footed, many new commercial streams of revenue will become available. Both opportunities and threats are going to crop up. These will have to be dealt with, judiciously.

How do fora such as FRAMES help in developing / professionalising the business of entertainment in India ?

Frames works like a honey fount attracting many who go to make the many parts that constitute the entertainment business in India. Film, TV, Music, Animation, Theme Parks, gaming - executives and promoters operating in these areas come together and discuss issues around a business which is being projected as one of the fastest growing areas of even developed economies. The process of discussion, networking and information dissemination will but naturally have a gradual cumulative effect on helping the entertainment industry evolve further.

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