Cable TV

DPOs, consumer data and the art of upselling content

It is tough for traditional players to have robust consumer profiling


KOLKATA: In the age of online content platforms, knowing what consumers want has become the key to customer acquisition and retention. While these platforms have tons of data to woo the target audience, it is tough for traditional players in cable distribution ecosystem, especially multi-system operators, to have robust consumer profiling.

However, (direct-to-home) DTH players like Tata Sky have already started innovating the area and MSOs are following suit slowly. At a distribution-related panel, ‘Broadcast and distribution challenges and the road ahead’, hosted by, all the panellists agreed that if they need to upsell or cross-sell content, a significant amount of data is needed.

“We do a bit of analytics. In the DTH industry, there is only one way of communication, the return path data (RPD) is not there. However, we have tens of thousands of dongles, through which we get some back-channel data, the reverse path identification based on which we do some customer segmentation like what channels they are watching, which regions are focusing on which channels. We are seeing as a trend that there is an inclination towards watching more regional content that has accelerated during Covid2019 pandemic,” said Tata Sky chief financial officer G Sambasivan.

“We try and do a lot of upselling based on customer analytics so that our hit rate in terms of conversion is on the higher side so that we don’t do carpet bombing. We select those customers and we try to upsell channels to them based on our estimate of which will be appealing to which type of consumer,” he added. According to him, Tata Sky has tasted success in the method and so, keeps improving analytical capabilities.

IndusInd Media & Communications Ltd (IMCL) CEO Vynsley Fernandes said that the problem is bigger for MSOs due to two major issues. Firstly, RPD will come at a high cost. Secondly, unlike DTH players, MSOs don’t have access to last mile-consumers directly since local cable operators (LCOs) act as the medium of connection. However, he mentioned that some MSOs are studying consumers but have not deployed any system yet. Moreover, if they deploy anything there is a concern about what is a valid sample size. He also mentioned that IMCL has been working with LCOs to build its database. Although he acknowledges that it is not optimal like other industries, it is getting better slowly.

“Since the customers are with us for 25 years, it is impulse and intuition that helps us drive the ARPUs. Around 60 per cent customers go with DPO packages,” Metro Cast Network Services Pvt Ltd promoter Nagesh Narayandas Chhabria said. 

Indian Cable Net Company Ltd director Suresh Sethia also spoke of the broadband box integrated with the network of cable users that gives them data on who is watching what. They have at least 3000 such boxes.

Siti Networks Ltd CEO Anil Malhotra said that as they are in b2b business, they can’t have direct contact with consumers, especially with LCOs in the middle. “But whatever choices customers have made are saved in our back end. Based on that, if any upselling or marketing has to be done, we can easily do it. As our business model is b2b, we consider what operators are doing in real-time is better. On a single way of communication, there will be a limitation,” he added. 

PwC India Entertainment partner media and sports advisory leader Raman Kalra did not agree to this view as he thinks every business is b2c in the M&E sector. He cited the example of print industry that did not have a direct connection to consumers and now the industry is struggling to adjust with digitisation. 

“Until and unless you [DPOs] go and check with you customers and have a reverse path, you will always be conjecturing what your customers are watching. While in past we could not have it, going forward we can align our LCOs also to the idea that is important to know what our consumers are watching. It would help you to build a business for yourself as well as for your direct consumer. So, it’s time we get LCOs on partnership mode, teach them, educate them, and only then will it unlock. Otherwise, all will keep going in circles,” Star and Disney India distribution and international business president and head Gurjeev Singh Kapoor commented.

IndiaCast Media Distribution Pvt Ltd president Amit Arora said that they have to offer various propositions so they can hold on to consumers.

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