Can the market deliver? This was one pertinent question asked at the day-long India Digital Networks Summit 2007 that was held at the Capital on October 17. Speaker after speaker at the Summit stressed on the revenue pressures on the broadcasters and suggested ways to overcome that.
Speakers included the likes of Amitabh Kumar, Director, Essel Group; Jagi Panda, CEO, Ortel; Paritosh Joshi, President, STAR India; and Bini Bawa, Executive Director, Network18, among others.
Essel Group’s Kumar said, “We are looking at different access points like the DTH and IPTV verticals. TRAI has given recommendations on IPTV. No registrations are required for IPTV, but there are other issues like entertainment tax. We expect the DTH market to grow to 30 million customers by 2011.”
Joshi of STAR India said, “The consumer gets to see what he wants to see under the CAS regime, and he is ready to spend for quality and for digitalisation. Private players like Tata Sky have lot of scope for growth. However, we need to regulate carriage and content.”
Ortel’s Panda said, “The cable industry hasn’t developed much in the last 10 years. The regulator has taken certain steps for increasing FDI, facilitating VOIP service, but there have been delays in the CAS rollout. As far as investors are concerned, we need to look at a benchmark in the industry.”
Joshi noted, “There is a low level of penetration in the cable TV industry. TV industry is young and needs certain time for industry to mature. I see analog and digital surviving together. However, distribution is a huge bottleneck, but thanks to DTH, it’s opening up. We can’t afford to have different delivery levels for different systems like investment. I don’t see consolidation for the next two years in cable TV market.”
Panda said, “Our dependency on advertising is growing. I think we can improve broadcasters’ revenues. There is a lot of revenue pressure on the broadcasters and if the broadcaster finds it hard to generate revenues, then no one benefits.”
The afternoon session focused on ‘Spotlight: Perspectives from the front line’. Vikram Kaushik, CEO, Tata Sky, said, “We have passed one million subscribers in one year. We had made certain commitments when we had entered the market. We aim to create a world class DTH platform, invest in front end technology as well as quality of people and on their training. The road is long, but the potential is very high, and no other DTH player has been able to achieve our kind of subscriber base.”
Elaborating further Kaushik said, “Affordability doesn’t mean just low price, but also good value for customers. No DTH operator will be able to sustain a fee of just Rs 100 a month. It’s a myth that Tata Sky doesn’t have customers in the rural areas – 60 per cent of my subscribers are from the metros, while the rest comes from villages.”