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Hinduja group plans HITS platform; seeks licence from I&B Ministry

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MUMBAI: Hinduja Group, which has interests in cable TV distribution business through IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd, is planning to launch Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) platform for smaller cable TV operators to offer digital service.

The HITS business will be under Grant Investrade, an investment arm of the Hindujas. Grant Investrade holds 6 per cent stake in IMCL.

Grant Investrade has applied to the Information and Broadcasting ministry for a licence to operate HITS.

"We applied for HITS licence about two weeks back. We feel that there will be a huge demand for such a service in the third and fourth phase of digitisation which will spread over small towns," IMCL managing director Ravi Mansukhani tells Indiantelevision.com.

Former Sun Group chief executive officer Tony D‘Silva will head the HITS business for the Hindujas. A veteran in the distribution business, D‘Silva has experience in both the broadcasting and the direct-to-home (DTH) side of the business. He was earlier heading Sun Direct, Kalanithi Maran‘s DTH company. Prior to that, he was headling Star India‘s distribution business.

Wouldn‘t it have made more sense for the HITS business to reside in IMCL? "We are looking at creating a neutral platform which cable operators and other MSOs can also tap. So we decided that it be housed under a separate company," explains Mansukhani.

IMCL is in talks with private equity investors to raise $75 million to fund the second phase of cable TV digitisation. The company plans to deploy four million set-top boxes (STBs) on top of the 1.5 million it is expecting to achieve in the first phase of digitisation.

Building a HITS platform will involve huge investments as it requires transponder space on satellite, encryption systems and digital set-top boxes. Noida Software Technology Park Limited (NSTPL), part of the Jain TV Group, is planning to invest Rs 15 billion over five years in its Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) project. The HITS service will operate under the JainHits brand.

The government has mandated digitisation across India by 31 December 2014. The second phase in 38 more cities will be by 31 March 2013, following the switchover to digital delivery of cable TV in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata from 1 November. The revised deadline for switchover to digital delivery in Chennai is likely to be decided by the Madras High Court.

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