The first panel discussion at the Indian Television Distribution Networks Congress 2010 dealt with the topic of ‘Digitisation of Distribution’, which sought to trace the growth of digital distribution platforms and the status of digitisation in the cable industry.
The session was divided into two parts, wherein in the first part, LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research, gave a presentation on the current distribution scenario in India and the growth of digitisation.
Krishnan noted that India was the second largest country for TV homes and had the potential to be the second largest digital TV home country after the US. Of the 135 million TV homes in the country, 103 million were C&S homes as of January 2010. The number of digital TV homes, which comprises DTH, IPTV and digital cable, currently stands at 20 million, and growing at a very fast rate. According to Krishnan, 2009 saw a 50 per cent growth over 2008.
He added that it was good news that pay TV commanded a lion’s share of 80 per cent in the digital market, of which DTH was the prominent platform. According to him, the number of DTH homes had grown from 2.3 million in April 2006 to 17.2 million in January 2010. Similarly, the number of digital cable homes had grown exponentially – from 0.8 million in April 2006 to 3.1 million in January 2010.
While digital TV has improved picture quality and the TV viewing experience, its direct impact has been on TV viewing time, which is 20 minutes more on digital TV as compared to analog homes. This, according to Krishnan, meant more channels being watched. Digital homes on an average were watching 12 additional channels, according to him.
Digitisation of Distribution
Moderating the panel discussion on ‘Digitisation of Distribution: The growth of digital distribution platforms, and the status of digitisation in the cable industry’, Krishnan invited the panel consisting of SN Sharma, President, DEN; Salil Kapoor, COO, DishTV; Sugato Banerji, CMO – DTH Services, Bharti Airtel; and Saurabh Bhatia, Co-Founder & Chief Business Officer, Vdopia.
Salil Kapoor was of the view that the DTH industry could not charge a premium from its subscribers as, at one hand, it was fighting with the low-priced cable operators at the ground level, while at the other hand, subscribers in India “are not yet ready to pay extra for services”.
Sugato Banerji talked about how DTH could be used as a platform by media planners for targeted advertising – geographically and locally.
Talking about the challenges faced by the cable, SN Sharma said that the MSOs (Multi-System Operators) could not grow due to high handedness – as in case of forcing bundled channels – of broadcasters and tough regulatory laws.
Unlike DTH, which was limited to television, cable, Sharma pointed out, had a huge bandwidth and the potential of delivering three services simultaneously – television, voice (telephony) and Internet (broadband).
Saurabh Bhatia noted that the PC was fast emerging as the second screen for delivery of television. The recent tie-up between YouTube and IPL to show matches live on the Internet was one such example. He added that his company was also in talks with movie producers to simultaneously release their movies on the web, along with the theatrical release.
Countering this, Sharma pointed out that broadband penetration had not grown as much as other mediums such as cable, mobile and so on. He, however, added that the cable industry faced roadblock in the form of the high prices of set-top boxes and called for Government support in subsidising the set-top box prices.
Despite the differences between the different platform players, all agreed that the various platforms would co-exist and all would benefit from digitisation percolating down to the grassroots.
Concluding the discussions, all the panelists agreed that if content was the king, then distribution would always remain God.