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IndiaCast’s Anuj Gandhi on TRAI tariff order, Jio, content monetisation & OTT regulation

Gandhi said impact of tariff order can be assessed after next two quarters

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MUMBAI: Day 2 of APOS 2019 featured a stellar line of speakers across the media and entertainment spectrum. Among them was IndiaCast Group CEO Anuj Gandhi  who engaged in a one-on-one during a session titled “Telcos Take The Long-Term View”.

Gandhi articulated his views on a wide range of subjects in the Indian context, describing the current landscape by drawing an analogy to lanes on a superhighway.

“We are building lanes on superhighways, be it a traditional cable company or a telco. Everybody is going to need video, linear channels, apps, VoD content, gaming. I think these are lanes on a superhighway. We as a traditional content company are looking at it as a great opportunity. You not only monetise on your traditional business, but among all these lanes on the superhighway,” he said.

The media veteran also highlighted how there has been a change in the conversation among telcos.

“It is so nice to hear my telco partners talk so passionately about partnerships and content. It wasn’t the language they used three years back. The ecosystem has turned on its head and in India, it is led by Jio. Other telcos have followed suit. The market has consolidated into three big players. And we see all of them playing a big role in content,” he stated.

Gandhi also touched upon the nature of deal structuring among stakeholders in the current landscape that is not just dynamic but also disruptive in nature.

“There is a very structured and regulated environment, which is the traditional environment. And the telco industry is still evolving, it is still unstructured. We exist in two different eras. It is still early days to talk about deal structuring. Jio launched in September 2016, and its growth has been phenomenal. The internet user base in India has grown. There are fixed fee deals. There are no per sub deals today, I think. From a content perspective, you don’t know what good growth would be. So it’s mostly short-term deals and fixed fee deals. And as there is more growth, more structured deals will happen,” Gandhi added.

He also pointed out that there is a little conversation around fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), which in fact is bound to have a big impact going forward.

“Convergence of traditional and new media (telcos) in India is happening at a very fast pace. That ecosystem development in which traditional media is subsumed in providing broadband not only through wireless but wireline will have an impact. It will then be interesting to see how deals are structured,” Gandhi opined.

India’s broadcast and cable services sector is currently grappling with new tariff order, which was set in motion by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

“It’s a pricing mechanism which is regulated. The flexibility that any content partner had or has to do deals with traditional businesses has been taken away of sorts. It is a very transparent mechanism where commissions and incentives have been fixed by the regulator. Whereas on the OTT side, large deals which are done by broadcasters’ own apps with telcos are still not regulated. It’s the same content,” Gandhi argued.

However, according to him, one will have to wait for the next two quarters to see the impact of the new regulatory framework on traditional businesses.

“From a Jio , Airtel Live TV or Vodafone Play perspective, they are bundling certain linear TV channels currently. That is comparable at a base level today. It is not comparable when you start adding pay TV on the base level. At what point in time it will start hurting the traditional business? It's early days. India is still largely a single TV household. The mobile screen is for the individual. Both ecosystems are co-existing in a convoluted way,” Gandhi said.

He also responded to a question about potential OTT regulation if telcos become super apps or aggregators

"We haven’t heard much on the front. We’ll have to venture into the dangerous territory of the definition of OTT, which is not only content or video, it could be a far wider term. There will be talks and consultations, but nothing major so far,” Gandhi concluded.

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