According to the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, national economic gains from a new approach to investment in cable TV infrastructure could deliver an increase of Rs 54.6 billion in economic activity and Rs 18 billion in new tax revenues within five years.
However, even with a target of 20 million cable broadband subscribers by 2010, the Indian market would remain less than half the size of the Chinese market, which, like India, is experiencing national economic growth of more than nine per cent annually.
“To achieve this goal, we will need a new approach to capital investment in pay TV, including abandoning the view that cable should be treated as a utility with commodity-like price controls. Today, the approach is more in line with old-style thinking on electricity services or traditional political battlefields like print media,” said Anjan Mitra, Executive Director (India), CASBAA.
He added, “The fact is that if we don’t change our entire attitude towards cable, we could suffer nothing less than a ‘digital failure’. However, if policymakers get the environment right, there will be huge rewards for the economy - first in the big cities, and then in the still needy rural areas.”
According to CASBAA, India’s cable TV networks are a huge national asset, built over more than a decade by private investments. With around 70 million homes wired, cable TV already plays a key role in India than in any other major market.
CASBAA is a regional industry body representing 120 multi-sectoral players such as AsiaSat, Intelsat, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, IBM, CSM Sofres, Synovate and PricewaterhouseCoopers, as well as the likes of Turner International, Walt Disney and HBO Asia, among others.
During an executive briefing for CASBAA members and invited guests at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, the industry organisation called on the government of India to learn the lessons of telecom liberalisation and to let consumers decide “what they want to pay for cable TV services and what they want to watch”. After that, for digital networks, it is a matter of “build and they will come”.
According to John Medeiros, VP-Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations, CASBAA, “Digital broadband is changing the face of the economically crucial global communications sector and India will benefit hugely if it joins that revolution.”
“The very nature of digital broadband provides consumers with more content choice and more price options. On-demand services become pervasive, allowing people to choose exactly what they want to watch and when, as well as more choices in terms of traditional TV channels,” he added.
“The exciting experience of other countries, and already seen in the Indian telecom industry, is that domestic and overseas investors are ready and able to generate the large sums necessary to deploy cable broadband — if there is a chance of reasonable returns,” said Medeiros.