'Unsung heroes' Regional Cable channels could shine post CAS: MSOs

MUMBAI: They were referred to as the "unsung heroes" --- a term used by CMCG managing director Samir Kale for cable channels --- but several MSO representatives urged the industry to have a serious look at them as the business potential is immense.

The general consensus at the session on "Cable TV channels: are they an attractive option post CAS?" at The National CAS Media Summit 2003 organised by today was that FTA regional cable channels that show films will prosper in the post CAS scenario. Reason: the satellite movie channels intend to remain pay.

However, media planners and buyers will look for "quality transmission, localization, innovation and better statistics" in the cable channels.

Kale moderated the session with a panel that had stalwarts Live Satellite Media CMD Atul Saraf; Update Media Channel Partners MD Sharad Alwe; Euro RSCG's media independent Media Planning Group president Sandip Tarkas; IndusInd Communications vice- president George Sebastian and Hathway Cable and Datacom GM Rajiv Parekh

MSOs also maintained that the menace of piracy can only be curbed by technology that will empower MSOs to take control over their networks and as the focus of the cable trade shifts towards providing content for a price. 

Here, we present some excerpts from the discussions.

Live Satellite Media CMD Atul Saraf 

Regional cable TV gets 70 per cent of its advertising from local clients and nearly 90 per cent of this comes from scrolls, while the remaining from TV commercials. The share of corporate entities is 30 per cent, out of which scrolls account for 10 per cent and ad films account for the rest.

Regional cable TV offers guaranteed viewership and has a higher retention capacity. Its availability on the prime band is a big advantage.

However, regional cable has never been an organised sector, which is likely to change post the implementation of CAS. It will also get recognition amongst the media planning fraternity. Monitoring agencies will have to track these channels seriously. More viewers will watch these channels and the eyeballs will bring in more revenues.

As more monies come in, the transmission quality will improve and so will the content.

Last mile operators (LMOs) know exactly what the consumers in their area or locality prefer.

Piracy is no longer an issue as technology has progressed by leaps and bounds. The MSO can control the feed in the network more prominently than ever before. Also, competition in the past had led to piracy. Now, the MSOs and cable operators will focus on expanding their revenue base through the opportunities given by the set top box.

Update Media Channel Partners MD Sharad Alwe

Several top advertisers such as Hindustan Lever have started using the regional cable channels simply because their research showed that these channels could not be ignored.

Corporate advertising accounts for Rs 500 million.

In several areas or localities, these regional cable channels give 100 per cent reach and are highly popular.

Euro RSCG's media independent Media Planning Group president Sandip Tarkas

Media planners and buyers have always had an issue with the measurement of these regional cable channels and the quality of transmission.

The size of the pie is between Rs 3 billion and Rs 7 billion at the headend level. I don't see the share of the ad pie increasing phenomenally.

However, if MSOs are able to really localize the content and innovate - for instance local news channels, local sports channels, local events channels (festivals) - then one can expect the pie to grow.

INCableNet IndusInd Communications vice president George Sebastian

Media planners and buyers need to seriously look at the organised cable business as against the entire regional cable channel business because the former has certain attributes such as a controlled environment; better supervision and is tracked by the rating agencies. TAM tracks the FPC based centrally capsuled network channels such as CVO. Several MSOs such as INCableNet have augmented their fibre optic networks in metros in order to improve quality of transmission.

A dipstick study showed that consumers, across viewership segments, prefer movie related software. Their preference for movies will increase post CAS given the fact that there are no FTA movie channels. There will be a shift of viewers towards such channels. As far as audience shares are concerned, already, the capsuled regional movie cable channels are giving the satellite channels a run for their money during the weekends.

MSOs such as INCableNet have invested in films (financing, producing) and have very strong library/archives. The new pact between the cable fraternity, distributors and film producers will pave the way for quality content being shown to consumers; there could be sharing of revenues too in the post CAS scenario.

Hathway Cable and Datacom GM Rajiv Parekh

The post CAS scenario will provide an opportunity to increase the ad rates as eyeballs will increase.

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