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Satellite TV: Future Trends

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The session on Satellite TV: The Future Trend towards the end of the convention came out with a very positive picture about the television industry in India.

The first speaker was Zarina Mehta, co-promoter and Director UTV, who gave her take on what programming will be like in future on Indian television.

"Family soaps are going to stay. And as the joint family system loses its relevance day by day, viewers will love to see the beauty of the old system on television. The huge success of 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' can be attributed to the same Indian mentality," said Mehta.

But according to her, the present trend of having daily soaps or programmes will not continue indefinitely. "Maybe in a year or so, the programming format will come back to a weekly schedule." According to her forecast, the future will belong to live shows where the host will have a live audience in front of him, where spontaneity will take centrestage. While stating this she agreed that productionwise it was a tough ask.

"Movies specially made for television and events like concerts will also occupy a major chunk in programming," says Mehta. She suggested that channels should give back the programme rights to the producers.

She also saw the coming of interactive TV in a big way. "I believe that the major part of India will be wired within the next ten years, So Internet television would have become a reality. There will be a huge market for programming for interactive television."

Talking about the number of channels, she felt there was no space for new channels. "In future there will be three to four national channels and two regional channel per language and other niche channels.

She raised the intriguing possibility of national broadcaster Doordarshan actually ceasing to exist in the next ten years as the "remotest of remote villages will be connected and will be able to access private channels."

G Krishnan, executive director of TV Today news channel, giving a general picture of the satellite TV scene in five years time, said: "There will be 20 satellites beaming over India, with advertising revenues going up to Rs 8 billion and cable and satellite homes reaching 140 million by 2005. The opportunities and challenges are stupendous."

He specified five broad aspects on which the industry's development will be dependent. "Convergence will play a major role as it will allow broadcasters as well as cable operators to go for value added services for the viewers. "It will change the whole concept of television," Krishnan said.

According to him, DTH would also become an effective medium, especially as the price of the dish is coming down drastically. "DTH will not remain as the service for the upper classes only. With reducing costs it will be much cheaper in future," he opined.

The third aspect he touched upon was the pay TV scenario. "Channels cannot survive only on advertising revenue. The total ad revenue of the industry for the current year is estimated at around Rs 2.8 billion and subscription revenues are estimated around Rs 6 billion which itself shows the potential of pay TV," Krishnan said, while regretting the fact that the broadcaster hardly got anything out of it.

He also raised the issue of addressibility. In future, content is no doubt going to rule, but it will be a low cost content he said. Elaborating on that, he said that low cost does not mean low quality content but it will be efficiently produced programming, which will be assisted by low cost equipment.

He gave the example of the camera which cost something in the range of Rs 2 million four to five years ago now can be purchased at one eighth of this price which impacts on the overall cost of production.

The fifth aspect that will be playing an important role is technology, Krishnan said.

I Venkat, director Eenadu TV, speaking from the perspective of regional language channels, elaborated on where the industry's future lay. He saw technology, the changing face of the consumer and the revenue structure of the broadcaster as being key issues.

"The best thing is that the entertainment option is still with television in India because of the cost barriers which work against other entertainment options. But the consumers habits are changing in a sense because of the large number of options available. From forced viewing we are moving towards preference viewing," Venkat said.

Regional channels and in turn regional content will see huge growth because of language preferences as well as cost-effective production.

He also mentioned the importance of "Generation Next" who are still in school and cannot stay without television and whose preferences will actually drive the market.

Suhas Bade, director SABe TV, gave more importance to technology and the avenues opening up for the broadcaster because of that.

"Broadcasters have to try every option to reach to the consumer. So the concept of mobile TVs in buses and trains with the help of wireless transmission will become a reality in future because it assures eyeballs," Bade said.

He mentioned the need for major broadcasters to come together and go to the cable operators as a consortium rather than going it alone. His logic being that it would not only increase bargaining capacity, but also allow smaller players (like Sabe TV?) to get a factored percentage of subscription revenues.

Rathikant Basu of Broadcast Worldwide, who was the moderator for the session, while reiterating that low cost content will be the key, sought to allay the fears of a small producer who felt the general drift of the discussion was that with increased outsourcing costs would drastically reduce. He raised the question whether this meant that people like himself could expect smaller and smaller returns from their efforts. "The person providing quality content will continue to get a premium," Basu assured the delegate. "What will change is the way production takes place. It will become more efficient and cost effective."

He ended on a very optimistic note saying that while today there were around 70 channels, next year at Ficci Frames 2002 there would be 200 plus channels.

Session:satellite TV : The future trend

Moderator:Rathikant Basu, Chairman, Broadcast Worldwide

Speakers:

Zarina Mehta, Director UTV - Future Programming trend

G Krishnan, Executive Director, TV Today - News channel

Suhas bade, Director, SABe TV

I Venkat, Director, Eenadu TV - Regional channel

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