HONG KONG: The curtains came down on CASBAA 07 on November 3 with a panel discussion on the ‘The Indian Broadcast explosion’. Moderated by Christopher Slaughter, MD, Asia Pacific Vision, the panel was represented by Narayan Rao, CEO, NDTV; Amit Jain, EVP & MD, MTV Networks – India, China & South-east Asia; Anurradha Prasad, MD, BAG Films & Media; and Pawan Gandhi, Head, Mobile TV, Multimedia Business Group, Nokia Asia-Pacific.
Giving a feel of the explosion in the television industry in India with some number crunching, NDTV’s Rao said, “There were 100 channels in 2006; this has gone up to 396 in 2007; and is expected to go up to 700 channels by end 2008. We are far ahead of China. There are 70 million C&S households in India, which translates into 350 million viewers -- this is higher than the combined population of USA and Canada put together! And radio reaches a billion people there.”
To put things in a more numbing perspective, Rao said that the broadcast media was a little under 4 per cent of the GDP at the moment. In a trillion-dollar economy, the revenue potential is immense considering that while India’s GDP is growing in double-digits, the media industry in India is growing faster than that.
MTV Network’s Jain came up with some more data crunching. “The Indian broadcast industry, a $4-billion industry at the moment, is poised to become a $25 billion industry in the next seven years.” He added that currently subscription rates for channels in India were quite low; broadcasters got 10-15 per cent, MSOs got around 35 per cent, while cable operators walked away with the balance 50 per cent. “This value chain will change over time with the increasing popularity of DTH and other platforms, making it a very promising proposition for broadcasters,” he said.
BAG’s Prasad contented that 56 per cent of India’s population was under 26 years of age. “It is this huge youth population that is driving the media industry’s growth in India. The predominant youth demographic, coupled with the high economic growth rate, was pushing demand across sectors, including media.”
About BAG’s strategy, Prasad said, “We have always been content providers. Now we are entering the field with our own channels. We are in a unique position to dovetail the content perspective with that of a broadcaster’s perspective.” But she was critical of Hindi news channels which, according to her, had been responsible for eroding credibility with bizarre content that was “often anything but news”. She called for caution on part of content creators.
Nokia’s Gandhi drew attention to the multimedia formats that were gradually finding acceptance in India, especially with the huge youth population. “At Nokia, we believe in putting TV in the pocket. Young viewers are increasingly showing a desire to get TV content where they want, when they want,” he commented. Mobility of content was poised to open up a huge market in times to come, he averred.
In contrast, the previous day, when the Middle Kingdom was the focus, the overriding view that came through was that in China it was a case of two steps forward, one step backward, then another step backward, before a step forward. “It is often a nightmare in China because of the lack of stable policies as well as consistent regulatory mechanism,” said one panellist. And in Taiwan, some panellists pointed out that often six-seven channels would be airing the same content!
Small wonder then that India came through as the big thing that is happening for the Asian broadcast industry. Doesn’t matter that India ranked number 1 on the piracy report, it is still an open market with a reliable judicial system for redress. China was not even in the report simply because the Middle Kingdom would not give access to the surveyors to even take stock of the rampant piracy and revenue losses in the Chinese television industry.