CASBAA: Delivering on India’s digital dream

CASBAA’s annual India Forum concluded on an optimistic note on the state of digitisation in the country. The Forum attracted a host of government and industry professionals weighing in on the multichannel TV market in India.

“The timing for this year’s CASBAA India Forum 2013 could not have been better with the Phase II digitisation deadline looming at the end of the month,” said Christopher Slaughter, CEO, CASBAA. “The Forum provided an ideal platform for industry stakeholders to share updates, concerns and feedback on a variety of topics that directly impact the health of multichannel TV in India.”

During his opening keynote, Uday Kumar Varma, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, said they have achieved over 56 per cent digitisation on average in Phase II cities and that, between MSOs and DTH operators, 9 million set top boxes have been installed. He also noted – in relation to the recent increase in customs duties on STBs – that the government was keen on encouraging indigenous production of boxes so that India would not have to depend on countries like Korea and China and the boxes would be BIS compliant.

However, elsewhere during the Forum, Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, noted the difficulties that still remain in the on-going digitisation process: “Our biggest challenge is how to convince different stakeholders to understand that their profit margins will decrease but only for a short while. It was difficult to get the different aggregators to sign the agreement last time, and it is happening this time as well. This was one of the reasons that deadline was extended during Phase 1.”

On a positive note, N Parameswaran, Principal Advisor (Broadcasting & Cable Services), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said that one main benefit of digital addressable systems would be the growth of niche television channels and that there was enough place in the country for both DTH and cable TV.

DTH was also one focus of a detailed discussion of India’s satellite capacity shortage, as PwC India Entertainment and Media Practice Leader Smita Jha presented results of a CASBAA/PwC study of transponder supply and demand over India entitled “Easing India’s Capacity Crunch.”  The study forecast a doubling in the number of TV channels available in India (with many more regional and HD channels) and suggested changes in Indian government operating procedures that would make the satellite capacity market function more efficiently.

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