ESPN looks to strategise to counter CAS effect

NEW DELHI: A "substantial" part of the revenues of ESPN India, as too with other pay broadcasters, is likely to get affected in the post-conditional access scenario.

The need of the hour, then, would be to strategise to "neutralise" that effect, a senior ESPN India executive has said.

"Certainly our revenues would get affected as that will be of others. But the challenge would be to have a strategy or strategies in place to try to neutralise that once CAS is implemented," ESPN India's MD-designate RC Venkateish, told during an informal chat on the sidelines of a media function organised here yesterday.

Though Venkateish did not give out numbers, he did admit that the near-term revenue hit post-CAS would be "over 20 per cent".

In a post-CAS regime, it would not only be distribution that would decide matters, but content too, since choice would be in the hands of the consumers, Venkateish said, adding, "You would have to have compelling content to be able to sell the channel to the viewer, just as is done in any other sector. If the content is not good enough, the consumer will not buy it, the same way as the consumer does not buy a bar of soap that he does not like."

Venkateish takes over formally as the India country head from Manu Sawhney on 1 August. The latter has now been relocated to Singapore after heading the Indian operations for several years from the time he took over from RK Singh, who had left for Zee Telefilms. Venkateish has worked in the past with multi-national companies like Gillette and Nestle and the "Indian market is not new to him." His last posting was in Japan.

According to the incoming MD of ESPN India, companies like ESPN would have to "dovetail" their own individual plans with that of the industry and the way it evolves over the year with the introduction of addressability. "With huge under-declaration (of subscriber base by cable operators), CAS may turn out to be positive for the (pay) broadcasters in the long run, but during the transition phase, as in any other transition, small problems would crop up. How they are tackled would determine the way business evolves," Venkateish said.

So, what would be his agenda? The man, who is slowly getting to know the media crowd in the Capital and elsewhere, including the government and politicians, gives a shy smile, and says, "What could it be? To chart out the path for the company here and get the revenues further up."

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