big media story of 2006? Let's say it
is one which is being carried forward
from 2005 (and to a certain extent,
2004). And that is direct-to-home (DTH)
television. Tata Sky (the joint venture
between Tata Group and Rupert Murdoch's
Star India) has got all the government
clearances and looks to be on course
for launch a little ahead of mid-2006.
TATA SKY DTH WILL OPEN UP INVESTMENT
OPPORTUNITIES ACROSS THE VALUE CHAIN
The take-off of Star's DTH project
will open up investment opportunities
across the chain, allow for the entry
of many more channels, and provide
healthy competition to other delivery
platforms. On the back of it can ride
content, giving a boost to production
houses that are finding top line growth
difficult. This of course is a future
prospect because at this point it
is only the possibility of a whole
range of international niche channel
offerings that really serves up any
value add proposition.
Currently, DTH in India lacks punch
with Subhash Chandra's Dish TV unable
to sew contracts with Star India and
Sony Entertainment Television India.
Dish TV claims 650,000 subscribers
are hooked on to the service, hardly
amazing numbers. Dish TV's base is
just too low to shake up the industry.
And the average revenue per user (ARPU)
is also not on the upper curve, though
it offers sports channels ESPN and
Doordarshan's DD Direct has roped
in around 1.1 million subscribers,
a much faster growth than Dish TV.
But the two can't be compared as DD
Direct offers only free-to-air channels.
At the end of the day, it is Star's
entry that the industry is waiting
for to change the economics of this
game. In the year, issues over interconnect
and sharing of content would also
have been sorted out. Scrambling for
better content, DTH operators will
try to lure viewers with a wider offering.
And other players like Kalanithi Maran's
Sun Group and Anil Ambani's Reliance
Group are eyeing a launch in 2006.
DTH will bring with it value-added
services. Dish TV, which has already
launched movie-on-demand services,
expects growth in the top segment
of the market with more such launches.
Says New Era Entertainment Network
CEO Sunil Khanna, "We will see
a revolution in 2006 with interactive
launches taking place. It will be
a new way of watching TV. We have
had more than one lakh subscribers
for the Hindi movies. We will be launching
personal video recorders in January.
We will also have interactive gaming
Tata Sky is just waiting to get into
the business. And it plans to get
many of the advanced interactive applications
from various News Corp platforms for
launch in the Indian market. Says
Tata Sky CEO Vikram Kaushik, "Large
investments are being made to customise
these applications for the Indian
Even then, nobody expects an immediate
explosion: DTH will have to slowly
build up in a price sensitive market.
Its biggest hindrance: the interconnect
agreement which does not allow for
exclusive content. Don't forget that
BSkyB's success in the UK was underpinned
on exclusive rights it held to a variety
of sporting properties, the English
Premier League soccer in particular.
CABLE HAS TO GO DIGITAL
Pressure will build up for cable
TV to aggressively go digital and
also launch value-added services.
Fortunately, a large number of cable
TV operators are realising this. Multi
system operators (MSOs), who have
put big money behind digital systems,
have failed to mobilise their last
mile operators (LMOs). But with the
arrival of DTH, offering content equal
if not superior to cable TV, the mindset
of LMOs will in all probability change.
Being entrepreneurial in spirit over
these long years, they will not just
sit idle and allow DTH to snatch their
The fag end of 2005, in fact, saw
a debate raging within the LMOs. At
a meeting called by Cable Operators
and Distributors Association (CODA)
in Mumbai, the operators wanted to
know from the MSOs how to counter
DTH. They were particularly agitated
by the way Tata Sky was approaching
housing societies with the proposal
of offering residents a central dish
antenna through which it would connect
The truth is that cable TV will have
to compete with technologies like
DTH. As Kaushik says, "Whenever
any restructuring happens in any business,
there will be forces which will have
to adjust to the new reality."
The reality is that digital cable
will have to be aggressively marketed.
That will happen in 2006 as the industry
faces competition from DTH. We will
see easy installment schemes and serious
subsidising of set-top boxes, both
from DTH and cable. The success of
DTH will initially depend on pricing,
particularly when there is no scope
to offer exclusive content.
The trend will catch on among independent
operators to install low-cost digital
headends. This will solve the bandwidth
problem on analogue cable, allowing
carriage of more channels. Even in
small towns like Kannur, a small operator
has put up a digital system ahead
of Asianet, the leading MSO in Kerala.
Digitalisation of cable is inevitable:
whether it comes through a triple
play route of Reliance or Tatas, or
from a single play route of a cable
operator. You may delay the inevitable
but you cannot kill it. It will compete
with DTH, and the cable industry has
a huge headstart. It is anyone's guess
which of the over- the-ground mechanisms
will succeed. But DTH and cable will
Analogue cable, however, will continue
to enjoy carriage or placement fees.
But it will seriously have to examine
ways and means on how to change business
models. Offering broadband, for instance,
is one opportunity worth chasing more
MANY A PLAYER LOOKING AT BROADBAND
AND TRIPLE PLAY OPTION
DTH or no DTH, the other big "techno-driven"
content delivery vehicle is broadband.
The year may also see the launch of
broadband content by telecom operators
like state-owned MTNL and BSNL. Bharti,
Reliance Infocomm and VSNL are in
various stages of development to offer
The triple play game is becoming
a popular business model for telcos
and cable TV operators across the
world. Among the telcos in India,
MTNL and BSNL are most prepared to
offer these services and have the
last mile infrastructure to deliver
video content to consumer homes. MTNL
in particular has deployed a networking
platform developed by Ericsson. The
challenge for these two state-owned
telcos in 2006 is to set up a content
delivery platform and sew up content.
VSNL and Reliance Infocomm have done
a few content deals for movies, but
there are other major issues waiting
to be resolved: last mile, set-top
boxes and video multiplexing.
IPTV may take off in 2006 but it
will mature only later. Big volume
business from the new delivery platforms
will take some years to build. But
investments into such ventures will
at least flow in.
MR STING WILL CONTINUE TO BE ACTIVE
Mr Sting (Indiantelevision.com's
Personality of the Year) will stay
busy in 2006 as news channels compete
fiercely on ratings. He will have
more targets to cover and expose,
be it politicians, government officials,
celebrities, professionals and who
knows even journalists.
News channels will air news with,
perhaps, more drama and entertainment
value. This is not to say that the
seriousness of the channels will disappear.
But we will see channels setting out
to dominate specific cities or regions
with their style and content of coverage.
There will be fewer launches in 2006
than this year. The biggest among
them is, of course, Times Now from
The Times of India stable. The English
general news segment, earlier the
monopoly of NDTV 24X7, will see a
string of channels competing against
each other. How this shakes up or
expands the market will be the story
The 'must share' clause with pubcaster
Doordarshan will continue to haunt
private sports broadcasters in 2006.
But one doubts if the acquisition
price for cricket properties will
actually fall. In fact, it can only
go up. The prime contest for the BCCI
cricket rights will be between ESPN
Star Sports (ESS) and Subhash Chandra's
newly-launched channel Zee Sports.
It will be interesting to watch who
will get the India cricket rights
and at what cost as this will lay
the ground for future battle among
the sports channels.
As costs go up for cricket, broadcasters
will also try to promote alternate
sports properties. Already ESS has
interest in making hockey more watched
and is marketing PHL (Premier Hockey
League). Zee Sports has acquired local
football rights for 10 years from
All India Football Federation (AIFF).
One can also expect broadcasters to
push tennis which has Sania Mirza
as a strong icon for young audiences.
The ad revenue from cricket in 2006
is expected to zoom as there are many
more tournaments in the year, the
big ones being the India-Pakistan
series and the Champions Trophy. If
the Indian team continues to do well,
advertisers can rest assured as far
as return on investments go. Fatigue
is unlikely to be an issue.
GECs TO EXPERIMENT WITH ALTERNATE
PROGRAMMING TO SOAPS
General Entertainment channels will
bank on alternate programming formats
to differentiate from the normal fare
of soap operas. The reality genre
will continue to rule the roost, although
there is a risk of fatigue setting
Channels have a rich lineup. Here
is the list:
Fear Factor India on Sony
Paisa Bhari Padeja on Sony (with celebs)
Extreme Makeover on Sony
The Cricket Match on Star Plus or
Indian version of Endemol's high tension
quiz show Hearbeat on Star Plus, Star
World or Star One
Mission Ek Crore on Sahara One
Sony will bring back its second season
of Fame Gurukul and may or may not
also bring back Idol towards the fag
end of the year (as the channel has
acquired two new formats at this year's
Zee TV's much-awaited gameshow Business
Baazigar is expected to roll out in
2006. The channel is also expecting
its mega game show Kam Ya Zyaada to
be a big draw among audiences. Zee
TV is spending more to market its
General entertainment channels are
likely to bring in a greater number
of adventure and crime shows, as they
have been generating consistent TRPs.
Of course comedy will continue to
get a boost. Additionally, one can
expect further niche shows to be introduced
targeting specific niches: be it the
youth or the intellectual.
It's also quite possible that channels
will go back to classical story telling
in new genres of soaps. Zee, Star,
Sahara and Sony have also been on
the prowl at international TV marketplaces
picking up international TV series
formats which they can translate into
TV shows that Indian audiences can
However, it is quite unlikely that
the super successful saas-bahu sagas
will be scratched out from TV schedules
by programmers. Unless the new shows
manage to make a considerable impact.
So audiences will continue to stare
goggle-eyed at their TV at the exploits
of Tulsi's and Parvati's great grand
daughters or sons.
KIDS CHANNELS TO FIGHT FOR MARKET
Live action content on kids channels
will jump next year to lure the tweens.
This trend was already visible in
2005 on Disney, Cartoon Network and
As far as pre-school programming
is concerned, Cartoon Network and
Pogo will be launching the localised
version of Sesame Street sometime
in May-June. With this, the Playhouse
Disney block on the Disney Channel
will be under attack.
Next year promises more heated competition
in the kids space. Cartoon Network,
which has been the leader for the
last 10 years, will have to protect
its turf against a more aggressive
Toon Disney (Hindi launch), Hungama
TV and Nick.
The channels will make efforts to
develop merchandising and consumer
products as serious revenue earners.
The Sun Group, which has virtually
not expanded its TV business in 2005
except the launching of two niche
channels, will probably be back in
action - in a big way. Maran could
well launch his DTH business, focused
on the South Indian language markets
where he continues to rule with ease.
He has booked Ku-band transponders
on Insat 4C which is scheduled to
launch in the second half of 2006.
Sun's initial public offering (IPO)
is likely to hit the money market
in 2006, according to news reports.
Will he enter the non South market
with a Bangla channel as he had planned
in 2005? Or has he given it up after
he failed to snap up Indian Cable
Net (formerly RPG Netcom), the leading
MSO in Kolkata, losing out to Siticable?
We will, perhaps, know in 2006. Meanwhile,
he is planning to expand his FM radio
ETV, Sun, Asianet, Malayala Manorama,
Mathrubhoomi and Malayalam Communications
Ltd (Kairali TV) are among the South
Indian firms which have applied for
an FM licence in the state. Obviously,
down south players are bullish on
No major change is expected in the
regional markets. But the year could
see new entrants jumping into the
TV sector. Print major Malayala Manorama
will make a foray into television
with the launch of a Malayalam news
channel, MM TV.
English language channels will need
to try and increase the 360 degree
experience they provide if they are
to compete with growing viewing consumption
from other genres like news. Alternate
media like the internet are also competing
for TV time. Niche channels like NGC
and Discovery would do well to conduct
more on-ground events to grab attention.
And increasing localisation should
also be a focus area.
Time spent on English movie channels
dropped in 2005. Reversing this trend
will be a big challenge in 2006. It
will also be a key year for Zee Studio
as it has to play catch up with HBO
and Star Movies. And, perhaps, we
will see Sony Entertainment Television
India launch an English movie channel
in India, following up on its its
parent company's acquisition of Hollywood
studio MGM in 2005.