India pay-cable ‘under-reporting’ at 85%

India’s existing – mostly DTH – digital broadcasters are said to be looking forward enthusiastically to the nation’s implementation of digital transmission by the country’s cable TV operators. India’s four largest cities have to have converted from analogue to digital TV by March next year. The whole nation must be converted by December 2014.

Most observers expect the dates to be missed, and the cost of implementing the government’s decision will be huge. But with most experts saying that under-reporting of cable TV can be as high as 85 per cent, there’s everything to play for.

Anil Uniyal, CEO, CNBC-TV 18 and CNBC Awaaz, commented: “[Digitisation] is a proactive step and when implemented, will be a win-win for all stakeholders. It will get TV broadcasters better transparency in subscriber numbers and more earnings from more varied content; cable operators higher subscriber revenues due to better rates and added earnings from value added services (VAS) which will enable higher average revenue per user (ARPU); and consumers more variety and better quality of content,” says a report in Hindustan Times of Nov 6.

Meenakshi Menon (Madhwani), founder and chairperson, Spatial Access, a media analytics company, said, “since subscription earnings will go up, broadcasters will no longer be solely dependent on advertising revenues, so viewership ratings will no longer be as critical. This will enable more non-mass programming. Moreover, there will be rationalisation of ads which are in oversupply currently, sending pricing haywire. Fighting clutter has become a vicious cycle and viewers are getting put off,” he told the newspaper.

“This is great news for us since addressability will get forced. For DTH companies, there will be a level playing field on pricing and costs. Till now, cost structures for DTH and cable have been vastly different,” said Vikram Mehra, CMO,Tata Sky.

NDS supplies TataSky, as well as cable operators DEN and Hathway with encryption technology. Jayant Changrani, country head and GM, NDS India, is confident that cable digitisation can happen within the deadlines. “Why do people assume that cable operators are not already doing something about going digital? Larger operators such as Hathway and Den are already into the digitisation process. Our large cable operator clients have digitised in good numbers in the phase 2 cities already.”

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