MUMBAI: The television sector can hope for a faster redressal of its ills with the appointment of Sony Entertainment Television India CEO Kunal Dasgupta as the co-chairman of the Ficci Entertainment Committee.
The committee has been chaired for the last few years by veteran filmmaker Yash Chopra.
At the Ficci SCaT India 2003 conference on the Indian cable and satellite sector held in Mumbai on Thursday, Dasgupta said his appointment highlighted the fact that Ficci now recognises the television sector as a significant part of the entertainment industry.
His aim, he said, would be to increase government involvement in industry's views and to facilitate the faster rollout of various services that would enable revenue growth in the industry in a major way.
Industry growth, he noted, be it ground distribution, home distribution, broadband or telephony, would have to be systematic to benefit all parties concerned, else it would end up as chaotic as the implementation of conditional access system (CAS) in the country.
The CAS chaos
While CAS, or "addressability", as Dasgupta prefers to call it to rid it of negative connotations, is still the cornerstone of growth of the home entertainment sector in the country, it has to be understood as a long term gain and not a quick fix solution, he said.
Referring to Chennai, the only city that has seen a scheduled CAS rollout thus far, Dasgupta said his company's research had shown that while 96 per cent of the city's denizens did not care for Hindi programming, almost 40 per cent were keen on sports and English content. However, till 15 October, only 6,432 set-top boxes (STBs) had been sold in the city, which means only one per cent of cable homes in Chennai currently watch pay TV channels.
The reason for the low rate of STB penetration, he said, was the political uncertainty about the future of CAS, lack of clarity on the cost of STBs as well as pay channels and the option of watching sports channels in pubs and hotel lobbies instead of opting for a STB at home.
Declaring that "the consumer has been turned off by the rollout of CAS," Dasgupta said addressability can only be ensured by seeding STBs - by offering them at easy rentals or even free of cost, or by offering reasonable packages of pay channels and introducing localised interactive services that will add to the attraction of the boxes.
"CAS was a means to bring addressability to the incumbent network, which was cable. That did not happen, mainly because we failed to provide the value adds, which would have made it an attractive proposition to the consumer," Dasgupta said.