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RK Arora

CEO | 30 Nov 2012

I accept there is a roadblock for broadcasters when it comes to carriage fees and all of us are bleeding. We have discussed this with the multisystem operators and we are getting 35-50 per cent discount on carriage fees as compared to last year. Post the first phase of digitisation, we have been getting this discount and are expecting the same discount in the second phase as well. The discount from both the phases will give major savings to broadcasters.

RK Arora has a proven track record and wide experience spanning over 20 years. As CEO of ITV Network, Arora is responsible for the business operations of the group’s Hindi news channel India News, five regional channels and English news channel NewsX. He is leading the group’s expansion plans and provides vision and strategic leadership for all aspects of the business.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Abid Hasan, Arora speaks at length about the focus areas of ITV Network, television industry in a post digitisation scenario, and more...

Q. ITV Network has been quite aggressive in its marketing strategy. Please share some of the major plans and focus areas for 2013?

We have two verticals in our group – News X in the English stream, which we have bought a few months back, and our signature Hindi news channel, India News. With a lot happening in the regional media scenario, we are focussing intensely on our five regional channels. The main aim is to bring everything under the single ITV network umbrella.

Consolidation of sales and distribution is very much needed as it will provide strength to the whole organisation. There are plans in the pipeline to add two more regional channels in Gujarati and Marathi languages in March 2013. Another focus area is revamping and rebranding our channels, for which our graphic team has already started working. It will benefit us from an advertising perspective as well as attracting viewers.

Q. Which are the regions that you are eyeing to generate maximum growth?

Growth is coming from regional channels in large numbers. Some of the states that are booming include Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. With the growth in the regional channels market, there are growing opportunities for advertising as well. Advertisers are keen to tap the regional channels as they give them greater output. As a national channel, we are getting the benefit from regional channels from content as well as advertising point of view.

Q. According to you, what have been the major roadblocks on the path to digitisation? How do you think these can be handled?

There were some roadblocks in the first phase of digitisation, but the process will be smoother in the subsequent phases, thanks to the lessons learnt from the first phase. As is known, Chennai is the only metro city that is facing some issues. We are also in talks with the Government, who has assured us that there will be no extension in Phase II digitisation deadline.

As far as the availability of set top boxes (STBs) is concerned, the matter will be resolved in the coming weeks. Currently, the frequency of supply of STBs has increased and there will be adequate number of STBs in the next four months.

Q. What major changes have you lined up at ITV Network after taking charge?

I have 2-3 priorities; one is a complete relook of all our channels. Secondly, distribution; I am targeting 100 per cent distribution across markets; and then marketing. These are the main areas that I am focusing on.

Q. What kind of changes are you expecting in the carriage fee structure post digitisation?

I accept there is a roadblock for broadcasters when it comes to carriage fees and all of us are bleeding. We have discussed this with the multisystem operators and we are getting 35-50 per cent discount on carriage fees as compared to last year. Post the first phase of digitisation, we have been getting this discount and are expecting the same discount in the second phase as well. The discount from both the phases will give major savings to broadcasters.

Q. Amid the cutthroat competition, how do you ensure that content remains relevant?

After digitisation, I think content will be the main king, and all channels will be benefitted. The reason is placement of channels on premium bandwidth, which will result in one channel being placed next to another, which will give birth to healthy competition.

We are also open to the 10+2 ad cap as it will give better quality viewing experience. This ad cap also allows channels to come up with their promotion and social campaigns. As far as our organisation is concerned, we have started promoting social campaigns on child labour, child abuse and so on.

Q. TV channel regulatory bodies have issued certain guidelines regarding content. Do you think these guidelines water down the content?

We are not against the restrictions put down by the regulatory bodies as all of them have been done keeping in mind the country’s interests. It is good that we are not showing footage of sensitive issues. These restrictions also help us earn the viewers’ goodwill.

Q. The Information and Broadcasting Minister also supports self-regulation in broadcasting. How prepared is India’s TV industry to self regulate?

I am happy about the decision of the Minister to support self-regulation; we have been regulating our content for the last 3-4 years. But yes, we do witness some mistakes and the regulatory body should punish those who repeat the mistakes every now and then.

If you look at the last couple of years, our self regulatory bodies have been working very effectively and they are doing good work, which has led to the improvement of content of news channels.

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