Canal+ backs HITS model for CAS rollout

NEW DELHI: HITS (headend in the sky), pushed by Zee Telefilms, seems to have become a hit with conditional access technology providers with the France-based Canal+ Technologies (C+T) today reiterating it's the most financially viable model for conditional access in India.

"The HITS concept is the best model suited for a price-sensitive market like India for (introducing) conditional access system. Investments on headends amongst others would come down substantially," C+T Asia Pacific general manager sales Nicolas Andrieu told indiantelevision today in an interview at the ongoing Exhibitions India-organised Convergence India 2003 here.

C+T, one of the biggest operators of pay television in Europe and some other parts of the globe, have been working with Zee Telefilms for the last few years on the company's direct-to-operator project.

However, when asked whether Siti Cable, the cable arm of Zee Tele, would formalise an agreement with C+T for CAS, Andrieu preferred to give a noncommittal answer. "We, as other players in this business, are talking to everybody," he added.

According to Andrieu, the company is also talking to vendors and others related with CAS for forging partnerships in India as the market offers huge potential. "The India market initially may be small for CAS products, but in the coming years, it would turn out to be a huge market," he said.

Why are companies like C+T so bullish on India ? It is not difficult to fathom the reason.

With two companies (Space TV and ASC Enterprises Ltd.) poised to get the Indian government nod for a direct-to-home TV service in India and the government also pushing for the rollout of CAS, Fusion Consulting, a Singapore and Hong Kong-based business intelligence consultancy, feels that India's pay TV subscriber households are likely to increase 1.5 times by 2007, up from 40 million in 2002.

Growing at CAGR of 8 per cent, India would have 61 million pay TV subscribing households, second to China's 113 million.

C+T is also looking at offering Indian customers, mostly formed of cable operators and multi-system operators (MSOs), a "package deal" that would include technology from it and the matching hardware from another group entity already operating in India.

"As we are part of the Thomson group, we may also look at offering package deals to people here whereby the technology would be Canal Plus' and, if possible, the hardware (the set-top boxes) for CAS may be from Thomson. There is certainly a possibility of this happening," says Andrieu.

Electronics goods manufacturer, Thomson India, has been operating out of Bangalore and has been in the forefront of CAS lobbying for lower duties on import duties on set-top boxes for CAS.

Andrieu said that the company is "very proactive" in India and has also worked out very "various price models" for the Indian market that would deliver an integrated subscriber management system and hardware."In a price sensitive market like India we have to develop a viable model that would be attractive to cable operators and others," he added.

Ruling out C+T setting up a separate subsidiary in India in the near future, he explained, "The market is not yet sufficiently big enough to justify investments on a subsidiary here."

Though C+T's technology for CAS makes it a strong candidate to offer services to multiple clients in India, Andrieu said, "These are commercial decisions and the question on exclusivity can be considered when the negotiations reach that stage of finality."

C+T of France, represented in India by Recreate Solutions, had already announced that it would stage a live demo, the first of the its kind in India, of its CAS, Mediaguard, during the 11th Convergence India 2003 in New Delhi.

C+T will also showcase Mediahighway, its middleware, which enables the set-top box software to interpret and execute interactive applications. Mediaguard provides digital broadcasters with business-critical reliability, ease of use and secure conditional access. The system also offers maximum flexibility for the introduction of multiple programme offerings to segmented audiences, coupled with transaction management, such as pay-per-view and e-commerce.

C+T is a leading international provider of interactive TV software solutions offering a range of flexible open standard solutions to broadcasters and digital operators around the world. C+T also claims that it has achieved leadership through innovation as it has the ability to integrate both head-end and set-top boxes.

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