Indian executives at Casbaa 2000

The Indian contingent consisting of SET India COO Rajesh Pant, Reliance Entertainment vice-chairman Amit Khanna, ESPN Software India chief Manu Sawhney and Pentamedia representative John Silverman put a brave front at the Casbaa 2000 conference which concluded today at Singapore Expo.

While Pant outlined the contours of the Indian cable and satellite television industry throwing in numbers about its size and growth, Sawhney spoke about the basic subscription television market. Khanna gave a broad perspective on India's economic strides, and the huge potential in the entertainment and information technology businesses. Silverman gave insights into how India could become a development base for animation, giving examples of Film Roman's 51 per cent partnership with Pentamedia wherein it will source content from India. Sawhney spoke about the inability of pay TV programmers to collect more than 30 per cent of the subscription revenues cable TV operators collect from subscriber.

All the panellists were bullish about India's cable and satellite television future. They expected the government to push through a convergence bill in the winter session of parliament. Sawhney spoke about the notification that the government is expected to push through by 19 November making it compulsory for cable ops to put addressible set top boxes into subscribers' homes.

The sad part is that the panellist threw little new light on the cable and satellite scene and its regulation in India. It seemed a deja vu of the situation two years ago, when the panellists then spoke glowingly of the situation in India only to have the door slammed shut in their faces by the government's inaction a few months later. Somethings never change.

The conference organisation committee would do well if it would have more focused sessions on issues confronting Indian cable and satellite television programmers, rather than a general overview which is available on several web sites. An approach of that sort would add more value to Asian executives. For example, this year executives could have been enlightened about the rapid strides that the new wave programming that is hitting Indian television screens courtesy the competition between leading channels Star Plus, Zee TV, Sony Entertainment, B4U, Sun TV, among several others.

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