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Hinduja's HITS platform NXT Digital to launch in August

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MUMBAI: The Hinduja Group has christened its headend in the sky (HITS) service platform as NXT Digital. The service is slated to launch in August 2015.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Hinduja Ventures’ investment arm Grant Investrade managing director Tony D'silva said, “We had applied for the HITS licence in November 2012 and finally after a wait of three years, we have got the Grant of Permission Agreement (GOPA) license on 14 July, 2015.”

At the time of its launch, NXT Digital will concentrate on the phase III and IV digitisation markets, which currently have more than 110 million analogue TV households.

The platform has already started rolling out set top boxes (STBs). “We have already got order for 2.5 million STBs,” informed D’silva adding that deals with two broadcast networks has also been signed. 

NXT Digital will launch with 150-200 channels in August and aims to take it up to 500 plus MPEG-4 encrypted services including HD channels with the ability to insert local channels as per requirement by October-November 2015. Not just this, the platform will also introduce value added service (VAS) like Darshan, TV Everywhere, Games and Learning by December, this year.

“We believe the platform will strongly support the laudable national mission to roll out Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) of broadcasting all over India,” said D’silva. 

NXT Digital, according to D’silva, will not just help last mile operators (LMOs) and multi system operators (MSOs) in going digital as per government mandated standards and within set deadlines, but will also help them remain independent and retain the ownership of their network. 

NXT Digital brand name and logo

According to D’silva, NXT Digital is a futuristic product, which caters to the next generation. Designed by Chlorophyll, the eagle in the logo symbolizes the empowered LMO/MSO who, with the new HITS platform, can soar into the skies with complete freedom and ownership, to achieve greater growth. The soaring eagle is also indicative of the reach of NXT Digital.

D’Silva said, “While HITS is the pipeline of content delivery, our offering will not be limited to encrypted television channels through digitally addressable systems. Instead, we will offer a rich bouquet of every kind of additional digital service such as VAS, OTT and others that will keep getting added. Hence, we decided to go with the name NXT Digital, and both, the name and the logo represent the next level in the digital technology we will offer.”

Research and outcome 

In order to understand the market and the needs of the LMOs, the company  undertook an in-depth research to find out the requirements of the distribution fraternity in December 2014. A research was conducted with 2000 LMOs, MSOs and their representatives across 120 cities in phase III and IV markets. 

The research threw up six major requirements of the LMOs and MSOs. These were as follows: 

1) Retain ownership of their network

2) Drive broadcaster deals

3) Package and price their offerings according to the needs of their market

4) To be able to acquire STBs according to their convenience

5) The ability to insert local channels for their end-subscribers

6) Have a sophisticated digital service that could help them compete with other digital platforms like DTH to ensure their digital offerings were future-ready so that their subscriber-bases would only grow.

“In other words, they wanted to remain independent, own their network, and go digital as per government norms and within the deadlines,” D’Silva said.

The HITS platform will offer the choice of two different service models: a white label service model and a full service model.

“By signing up for a NXT Digital service, a network owner in a Phase III market can be saved the burden of having to make huge investments in the technology and highly skilled manpower required to convert his analog households to digital,” he informed.

The entire infrastructure and backend, including a call centre for customer service, will be taken care by NXT Digital. “The network owner can concentrate on growing his business through managing his network, local channels deployment, broadcaster deals and more,” D’silva said. 

Technology partners 

The technology programme manager for NXT Digital is Castle Media and its team, led by Vynsley Fernandes, who has set up several world class operations in broadcasting and digital networks in India and overseas.

GIL has partnered with Thaicom-7 for satellite, C-Band transponders, Nagravision DLK for CAS-embedded platform; OpenTV1 for middleware; Hansen Technologies for subscription management system and billing solutions and Changhong, Telesystems and others for STBs.

Manpower and offices

NXT Digital currently has close to 200 people working in different parts of the country. These people have been picked from the broadcast, cable and telecom sectors. 

The company has four regional offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru and 16 state offices. 

Pricing and revenue share

The STBs have been made available to LMOs on cash and carry model. While the SD STB is priced at Rs 1400, the HD box will cost Rs 1800. 

NXT Digital will charge the LMO a flat fee of Rs 20 per subscriber.

In case the consumer pays directly to the platform for any la carte channels, using the online mode of payment, NXT Digital will have a revenue share with the LMOs.   

The HITS platform will work on a prepaid model. “While there will be an option for postpaid, but we will concentrate on the prepaid model. Not just this, unless the consumer application form (CAF) is in place, the customer will not be activated,” informed D’silva.

Awareness drive

GIL has readied a pan-Indian awareness drive across markets, showcasing its services portfolio, technology capabilities and quality of services. The company will conduct roadshows in 39 cities in order to train the LMOs.

The campaign will be spread across all media consumed including but not limited to radio, local-media and OOH.

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