Sunday, December 20, 2009

DTH operators feel HITS will expand the digital market

Direct-to-home operators said they did not treat the cable operator as their competitor and felt DTH was simply one other way for the country to get digitised. They were also unanimous that Headend-in-the-Sky (HITS) would not hit them adversely as that would also help expedite the march towards digitisation. In any case, they felt that the country was large enough to accommodate different kinds of technologies. The operators were speaking during a session on ‘Spotlight: DTH’ on the final day at the Focus 2009, the third Global Summit on Entertainment and Media, organised by Assocham.

Airtel DTH director and CEO Ajai Puri said DTH was essentially a way of digitizing technology and making television accessible to remote corners of the country and the poorest of the poor. The principal market of the DTH operators was the non-cable and the non-TV market since many in remote areas did not buy TV sets since they did not receive signals. But he said digitisation was not the responsibility of only the government. He also complained that the DTH segment was the highest taxed – almost 50 per cent – and this situation had to be corrected. The cost of content was also very high, he said. Dish TV president Rajiv Khattar who chaired the session agreed that taxation was too high. He said DTH gave the consumer greater choice and has taken the cable operators out of their complacency. The important feature was that DTH did not have a rural-urban divide. He said the country was gradually moving into a scenario where the stakeholders had to contend with increasing number of TV sets rather than TV households.

He felt that HITS will only help to expand the market and give the consumer greater choice. ARPUs (average revenue per user) would increase if consumers are offered more than what cable TV does. Baring Partners Equity media head Mohit Ralhan said even if ARPUs do not increase, the cost of content would fall. He said the on-demand market has not increased very highly all over the world, but in India it is already a billion dollar market. He said whatever is better, faster and cheaper will succeed. At present, 60 to 65 per cent of DTH was in rural areas. But he expected DTH to break even only in about seven to eight years. NDS India GM Alan Dishington said in reply to a question by Cable Operators Federation of India President Roop Sharma who was the moderator of the session that DVR is a new technology and will take some time to find roots in India. The fact that set top boxes were subsidized also affected the market and the pricing could not be too high. Answering a question, Sharma said the government must find a way to give right of way to cable operators so that wires do not hang around all over the place.


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