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2014: The year that changed landscape of distribution

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2014 has been the most exciting and an eventful year for us in the Media and Distribution Industry. The phrase “There is never a dull moment” is so apt to define the year of 2014 that changed the landscape of distribution so significantly and posed challenges like never before. The year started on a promising note for the Industry with the impact of digitisation settling down and the benefits of this shift starting to roll in. Reduction in carriage fees and an upswing in subscription revenues indicated change, yet the industry continued to grapple with implementation of packaging at the retail level.

Value chain as a whole moved towards a more structured form, with constituents at each level moving from an adhoc/ flat fee commercial arrangement to CPS model. Subscription flow from LCO to MSO which was significantly low in analog era started growing. Wider choice at the subscriber end also helped growth in ARPUs.

One of the biggest changes that shall significantly impact the distribution model is BARC becoming a reality. It is set to redefine the way all of us look at distribution. Expansion in LC1 markets and forthcoming BARC measurement is pushing every broadcaster expand visibility to the deepest, darkest corners of the country. Such is the scope of expansion that it will require any organisation 24-30 months to plan, execute and brace one of the biggest change in the history of distribution.

DTH industry saw a major shift this year in their outlook towards the business. Almost all of them moved away from the customer acquisition mode to better profitability. While the story of subscriber acquisition was not exceptionally different over the previous year, DTH companies managed churn, HD and ARPU increasingly well.    

No other year has seen a bigger storm than 2014 in the Regulatory environment. There were so many storming changes that touched every stakeholder in the distribution chain. TRAI came out with regulatory changes like Disaggregation, DAS phase III and IV, Commercial establishments and Ad-Cap. The new regulatory environment posed new challenges such as keeping partners together, protecting bottomline revenue and remaining relevant in the new regime. Postponement of digitisation in phase III & IV caused recalibration of business plans by all stakeholders. TRAI’s regulatory change for commercial establishments affected an entire revenue stream of broadcasters and the matter continues to be fiercely litigated.

Going into 2015, we strongly believe the industry will undergo some paradigm shifts in the way we do business. Implementation of RIOs in cable will see packaging in cable become a reality. Digital platforms hence shall compete effectively. Carriage fee, a big cost for broadcasters will get reduced to miniscule or only exist for FTA channels. HD and broadband in cable will see a big swing to drive revenues significantly for the cable companies. More interesting deals like DEN-Snapdeal shall emerge. DTH players shall equally bring about next level of offers to bring more value to the subscribers such as OTT, 4K boxes, TV Everywhere, and Binge viewing being offered to the consumers.

For us here at IndiaCast UTV, the year 2014 was equally exciting. In face of compelling challenges, we en-cashed on the opportunities to attain significant growth. There is ample evidence that we are moving forward and in the right direction. In light of disaggregation, IndiaCast UTV was successfully appointed as the authorised agent for TV 18, Disney UTV and ETPL and the broadcasters reposed full faith in the our team. Transcending these regulatory changes, we emerged stronger than ever.

On the DTH front, we saw all our renewals happening during the year. We had to up our ante and attain a fair share for the unmatched content that the network stands for. It was tough convincing the platforms but eventually they saw sense in the value we bring to the table. We are proud to say that we were able to stitch our multi-year content deals with all the DTH platforms at a healthy growth rate. On the visibility front, we embarked upon the biggest challenge to put in place an entire LC1 team and collectively put in thousands of manpower hours to expand our reach across the length and breadth of the country. Our ratings in the past few months are a testimony to the efforts of the affiliate team who seeded our channels in a number of new networks across smaller markets.

The year also saw us successfully launching and distributing the third Hindi GEC “EPIC” which expanded the GEC space by offering a season based formats based on Indian Mythology and folklore. Viacom18 gave a myriad of entertainment options with Colors being the frontrunner in Hindi GEC space, launch of new Hindi GEC “Rishtey”, MTV Indies creating a new space in Music genre and by launching “24” - India’s first international non-reality format show with international standard production quality. TV 18 maintained its leadership position and added a business news channel in Gujarati called CNBC Bajar to its portfolio. The regional offering was strengthened by launching four news channels under the ETV banner - Kannada, Bangla, Gujarati and Haryana.

This year has seen IndiaCast UTV coming of age, adding stability and propelled us to achieve more. We are confident of setting new benchmarks for ourselves and for the industry and embark on a larger journey which will see us coming out stronger than ever before. We are looking forward to an exciting and eventful 2015.

 (These are purely personal views of IndiaCast UTV Media Distribution EVP Amit Arora and indiantelevision.com does not necessarily subscribe to these views)

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