The buzz in the Indian media market is that Harmonic Inc, a US based provider of digital video, broadband optical networking and Internet protocol delivery systems has tied up with India’s Alliance Strategies Limited (a multi disciplinary consultancy services company) to capture the DTH segment in India. The company currently services several cable, satellite, telecom and broadcast network operators worldwide and is aiming to provide its technologies to India’s digital, multi channel, satellite broadcasting companies as well.
Reportedly, the preliminary surveys have already begun in India, in close collaboration with the above-mentioned consultancy. While the Subhash Chandra-owned ASC Enterprises remains unperturbed about the entire scenario, the million-dollar question remains - can two or more DTH platforms co-exist in one country, especially when global trends have proved otherwise?
Says Ashish Kaul, Vice President, Corporate Brand Development, Essel Group, “Often, we make this foolish mistake of comparing the Indian market with the global scenario. For one, the global market is a seamless market wherein English is the main language and the content is driven by common traditions, heritage and viewing habits. India, on the other hand, is a diverse market and the viewing habits don’t fall into any fixed pattern. For instance, the viewing habits of people based in northern India is completely different from the viewing habits of the south, east or the west. Let’s not forget that India is the second largest country in terms of population, quite unlike many European and western markets, where DTH exists.”
He adds, “I don’t have an exact idea of what Harmonic is planning to incorporate within India but if they are entering the market, it is because India has the potential of being a world leader in the DTH segment. I firmly believe that India is quite capable of nourishing multiple platforms.”
Is affordability a big obstacle in the way of DTH? Kaul believes, “DTH is a premium product. In the first place, why should a person who doesn’t have the capacity to buy, be expected to go for it in the first place? It’s like the car market wherein a Maruti 800 is priced at 2 lakh and a Mercedes is priced at 25 lakh. Every car is targeted towards a separate segment of society. DTH Set top boxes come with varied prices, ranging right from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 12, 000. Dish TV on the other hand has an exclusive offer for Rs. 3999 plus tax for the entire CPE (Customer premise equipment) and a monthly subscription of Rs. 100 plus tax per month.”
But in a country where consumers crib about paying Rs. 200 as cable charges, where lies the potential market for DTH? Kaul is of the opinion that out of the 100 crore population of India, 8.4 crore people are with television sets and only 4.5 crore out of them are people are with a cable connection. He elaborates, “The market we would like to penetrate into consists of villages, farm houses and areas with poor connectivity and difficult geographical terrain. The potential target also encompasses high net worth individuals who need quality service, transmission and flexibility.”
As per case studies on DTH, the service took five years to become a force in content delivery in USA and even after over 15 years of its existence, has managed to corner just 25 per cent of television households. Can ASC Enterprises really presume that it would have many takers in a developing market like India?
Kaul states defensively, “You would never get it right if you keep examining the Indian market from the European perspective! We launched on 2nd October 2003, soliciting customers without placing a single advertisement anywhere. And to our credit, in less than 90 days, we have crossed over 50,000 subscribers! I leave it to your judgment, if this venture is a success or not.”
Meanwhile, in the global scenario, Harmonic Inc remains a name that Direct to Home service providers have come to rely on. These customers look towards Harmonic for high-quality, bandwidth-efficient MPEG-2 encoding, unmatched statistical multiplexing, data insertion capabilities and the ability to integrate with other outstanding products. Harmonic products are based on open standards such as MPEG-2, DVB, SNMP and DVB SimulCrypt, which allow service providers to select from a wide range of conditional access technologies, set-top boxes and EIS/scheduling systems.