Digital content, smart marketing needed for digitisation to succeed

MUMBAI: For digitisation to succeed, technology and content have to be matched. Digital content needs to be there. Television sets should be in high definition. Server based channels can be a source of revenue for MSOs and cable operators in a digital world.

These points were made at a session during the Telecom Lead B2B Summit on Broadcast digitisation: Challenges and opportunities. The session in question was how cable, DTH players and TV channels can monetize by utilising customer demands and technologies.

Assocham national council chairperson on media and entertainment Sujata Dev made the point that technology and content have to be matched in a digital world. Producing content in digital will grow. She expects rural India to lead the digital push.

"Acceleration will happen here. The 80:20 principle applies here. 80 per cent of viewership will go to 20 per cent of channels. The smaller channels will need differentiated content to survive."

She noted that for money earners in the family and for the youth the television set is just one media avenue to consume content. They use many devices and the television set is just one device. That is why broadcasters are trying to see how their content can travel across devices. "That is why producing content in digital is important. It is also important to note that the consumers expectations will rise along with subscription fees growth. People buy content not technology."

She also noted that marketing of content will be important. Earlier it was the distributors who were doing this. Now channels will be able to communicate directly with the viewers. The distribution chain is taking a new trend. Ratings is another area whose dynamics will change. Homes will have set top boxes which can act as peoplemeters reducing the issue of inadequate sampling. She also touched on the broadband issue noting the Bharat Broadband Network initiative to connect 700,000 villages. "This will help erase the digital divide."She also noted that telecom companies could get into media given that there is no cross-ownership rules for media.

Indusindia Media and Communication senior VP Subhashish Mazumdar spoke about the different levels at which cable operatiors can gain more revenue from a digital economy. The first avenue is charging more for more channels. Instead of only getting 100 channels the consumers can now get 300. He also praised HBO for launching ad free chanels saying that this is what is needed. "This is good. You monetize the audiebnce in a segmented manner. Server based channels can unlock value. For instance around 600 movies are not seen theatrically. Some of it is regional content. This can be exploited right now. Broadcasters have archival content which can also be used. The good thing is that the consumer has a choice of whether or not to take it. It is not being pushed down his/her throat."

He also spoke of broadband as being a further step to unlock revenue. This would moving away from Docsis ADSL to G pon. "The operator will be in a position to charge more for advanced technology. Cable operators and MSOs can generate revenue in a step wise manner." VOIP is another part of the revenue stream./ This is because VOIP networks can be linked.

At the same time MSO branding will be important. Right now people are aware of who their MSO is but they are not ware of the various services that digital cable can offer. This is where efforts have to be made by the players and by the industry. "There is low level branding in existence in terms of who the MSO is. But top of the mind branding is important. People need to know what services are being offered." The good news for him is that in a digital world due to the subscriber management system an operator can know where customers are located and offer services accordingly.

HSBC Securities and Capital Markets associate director telecom and media Rajiv Sharma also made a point about broadband saying that MSOs wil have to convince LCOs about it. They need to understand that they can make money beyond just television. "MSOs will have to invest in network infrastructure. It can be customized. It is a capex model. Margins can be high as there is no broadcast fee to be paid. MSOs have a better ability to raise funds as foreign investors prefer two way networks and a consumer facing business."

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