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FICCI Frames 2016: Digitization is a boon, but subject to how it is utilized by all stakeholders

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MUMBAI: Even as a general consensus emerged on digitization being a boon, questions were raised at the ongoing FICCI FRAMES meet on whether the concept and advantages of the concept have been fully understood.

Even as the TV industry has leapfrogged to more than 800 channels, and Indian Pay TV made the leap from analogue to digital and travelled from single to multi-platforms, the session on ‘Future Proofing Broadcast Distribution’ showed there are still some apprehensions on how the new technology can be used.

The panelist included Times Network MD& CEO MK Anand, Ortel Communication CEO Bibhu Prasad Rath, Indusind Media and Communication MD & CEO Tony D Silva and Microsoft Corporation India Microsoft Azure and server business country head Srikanth Karnakota. The session was moderated by Zee Network president (Legal & Regulatory) Avnindra Mohan.

Mohan set the ball rolling with a perplexing question on whether the industry had fully understood the implications of ditigization and convergence and whether stakeholders realized that they can use the same network for delivering different content through different modes of mediums. Thus, he said it shows a paradigm shift in the entire gambit of the distribution system.

“Digitization has been a boon for the broadcast industry. From the broadcaster point of view, digitization started when the Direct to Home (DTH) system launched in 2003 in India. English news and other English general entertainment channels were being treated as the outsiders for the broadcast business. We had 65 million viewers in English from 2000 to 2005 whereas the total number of television viewers was 400 million. The number of English viewers has grown to 200 million now and that happened because of digitization,” says Anand.

Anand added that in the next five to ten years, the English entertainment viewership should cross 300 million which is almost close to Hindi general entertainment channels viewership due to digitization.  “Times Now has a very strong and loyal audience in a month we cross the viewership of two and half crores but people don’t know that we have 13 crores of viewers on New Media platform,” informs Anand.

Being a multi-system operator sharing views on the kind of business opportunities Ortel Communication can have in such a scenario, Rath felt India has grown in a unique fashion for the last two decades but the quality of the networks has been compromised. “The Set Top Box is not a solution to a network and we need to handle Phase III and IV in a different manner and not as Phase I and II”, he added.

Noting that “we in India do not have one definition for Digitisation.It has been portrayed differently by others”, D’silva asked what the country wanted to achieve through digitization. “I believe there should a national objective about what they want to achieve from digitization. In most the industry today including DTH, 50 per cent of revenue goes in tax”. He felt progress was difficult unless the tax was supportive, but this was not going to happen. “It is the MSOs who are putting up the money and buying the STBs. So there has to be a logical regime of taxation. The STB is the only starting point of digitization. There should be an environment where technology and digitization should go hand in hand,” he felt.

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