India: Current pay-TV growth is ‘tip of iceberg’

Technology company NDS is now serving more than 20 million homes in India, representing more than 100 million viewers, with its encryption and middleware expertise.

Dr Abe Peled, executive chairman of NDS, speaking exclusively to Advanced-Television.com from New Delhi where he was attending an event to celebrate the milestone, said the best part of the news was that the achievement was only the “tip of the iceberg” as far as future pay-TV prospects were concerned. “There are some 120 million middle class homes in India, and they’re growing at nine per cent a year, and they want high-end TV services. The other good news is that the Indian government is now firmly backing the digitisation of all of India’s cable systems, starting with the four biggest cities.”

Peled admitted that while India’s quite aggressive digitisation timetable might slip a little in terms of timing, he was confident that the task, when complete, would rapidly make a material difference to pay-TV broadcasters, and help curb the notorious ‘under-reporting ‘ of subscribers. “This will result in putting more revenue in the hands of the pay-TV sector which can be ploughed back into better programming,” he added.

NDS has recently won business from two Indian cable operators (Darsh and JAK Communications). “This is another indicator that smaller operators understand the need for security and improved transparency in the market,” said Peled. NDS supplies major cable MSOs Hathway and DEN, as well as TataSky and Airtel Digital in DTH.

He says cable’s digitisation, like DTH, is capable of further strong growth. “The difference is that DTH has the latest technology, and the capital to make further investments. Cable is sometimes limited, and not helped by India’s limitation on inward foreign investment. DTH is also present right across the nation, and is present in even the smallest of villages.  I can see something of a ‘land grab’ taking place with some aggressive moves from both sides of the industry. I can see consolidation happening, especially with some of the smaller cable operators who simply don’t have the financial muscle to invest in digital and grow.”

Peled says that India’s local set-top box manufacturers are now turning out cable boxes for as little as $20, and helping maintain a realistic margin in a market which operates with low ARPUs. “Some cable operators are now offering HDTV channels, because the HD channels don’t have the same price caps on subs fees. So there are clearly people willing to pay more. I believe this will also drive DVR’s into the Indian market, as it already has for the DTH operators.”

Sue Taylor, SVP/GM, NDS Asia Pacific added: “India is expected to overtake the US in the number of DTH homes within the next year and we’re committed to helping operators introduce next-generation applications that will continue to enhance their subscriber offering. As India’s leading digital cable TV solutions provider, we are dedicated to developing a full suite of affordable, scalable and future-ready solutions for operators who want to digitise their networks to maintain a competitive advantage”.

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