Waiting to exhale

The broadcast industry continues to grapple with issues such as cable digitisation and television ratings with no clear solution in sight

Mumfbai | Updated: April 9, 2014 1:05 pm
Representational pic Representational pic

By Anushree Bhattacharyya 

Even as phases one and two of the cable television digitisation process ended some time back, the television industry is yet to fully reap the benefits of digitisation. What’s more, broadcasters are still grappling with the 10+2 advertising cap ordered by the Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI). On the other hand, television rating remains an area of issue for broadcasters, with the only ratings agency TAM Media Research being unable to resolve the issues related to ratings and Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) still a long way off from rolling out its ratings.
“We use the word digitisation very loosely. So far, we have only managed to seed the set-top boxes. Cable TV will be truly digitised when subscription revenue would account for 40 per cent of the overall revenue of broadcasters. So far we have witnessed a small increase in the subscription revenue. Earlier it was 12-14 per cent of the total revenue, it has now increased to 18-20 per cent,” said Siddharth Jain, managing director, South Asia, Turner International India.
The government, however, holds a different view. It says that broadcasters as well as multi-system operators (MSOs) have benefited from the completion of phases one and two of digitisation. At the annual Cable And Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) conference held in the Capital last week, Supriya Sahu, joint secretary, broadcasting, ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB), said, “Post digitisation, there has been 200-300 per cent jump in subscriber base of broadcasters apart from increase in subscription revenue by 30-50 per cent.” said Sahu.
According to Sahu, the government too has witnessed an increase in its revenue after the process of cable digitisation started. “The entertainment tax collected has increased. For example, in August 2012, the entertainment tax collected in Delhi was ` 55 lakh. In 2013, we saw a five-time increase in the tax collected from Delhi. The total entertainment tax which was collected in August 2013 was Rs.3 crore,” she added.
However, Sahu agrees that a lot more needs to be done. “The total number of set-top boxes required to complete the process of digitisation is 14 crore. In totality, 3 crore set-top boxes were installed during phases one and two. Of this, 1.2 crore set-top boxes were installed in phase one, and 2.111 set-top boxes were installed in phase two,” she said.
Even as the industry continues to wait for the government to initiate phase three of the digitisation process, multisystem operators say last-mile connectivity will be the biggest hurdle. “In phases one and two of digitisation, we were able to enter many households in India. But laying the fibre across a town or a village in the third and fourth phase is going to be a challenge,” said Jagdish Kumar, managing director and CEO, Hathway Cables and Datacom. He said that the MSO community has till now made an investment of Rs.3000 crore and has seeded 30 million set-top boxes. “We know that it will take four to five years to get a return on our investments. However, the next two phases are going to be a different ball game, as we will be required to start from the scratch and would required huge investments, about Rs. 20,000 crore.” On the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in news, Narayan Rao, executive vice president of NDTV and president News Broadcasters Association (NBA) says the news industry is not yet ready for an increase in FDI from the current 26 to 49 per cent or more.
“The level playing field is still missing in the news business. News broadcasters have to pay high carriage fees and are dependent on advertising revenue. Broadcasters will be ready for FDI in this category once this situation changes,” said Rao. The issue of television ratings remains contentious with broadcasters unhappy with TAM’s ratings methodology even as Pradeep Hejmadi, senior vice president, TAM Media Research saying that the industry requires one currency. “The industry is going through an evolution. But two forms of data may lead to further confusion,” said Hejmadi.
Satyajit Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia says that the industry should not consider the data to be absolute and the only answer to media planning. The data rather provides an indication of the real situation.


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