Price liberation will make India pay-TV rock, the CASBAA argues

Rebecca Hawkes © | 12-12-2010

In a call to arms to the broadcasting industry, The Indian government must move rapidly towards full digitisation in the pay-TV sector and create a broadcast market which stimulates investment, according to industry leaders attending a conference hosted by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasters Association of Asia (CASBAA).

Delegates at ‘Addressable India 2010’ from the seven leading pay-TV associations – representing 90% of India’s TV market – reached consensus on the need for addressable digitisation (including broadband deployment), to enhance transparency, ensure revenue flows, provide greater consumer choice, attract more advertisers, and better enable the collection of taxes by the government.

Content suppliers, multi system operators (MSOs), and last mile operators all currently believe they are being “robbed of [their] fair share” of TV revenue, JS Sarma, Chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) told the conference. He suggested that the transparency introduced by future digitisation would help reconcile “competing and therefore conflicting interests” at every level of the pay-TV industry.

Raghu Menon, Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) said Prasar Bharati was working to achieve full digitisation of the state terrestrial network by 2017, with the first phase scheduled for completion by 2013 at a cost of IRS15.62 billion. He suggested that 2017 might be a more reasonable timeframe for full analogue switch off than 2013, as proposed by TRAI.

However, the I&B Ministry would, he said, consider the recommendation by TRAI to increase foreign direct investment in direct-to-home (DTH) TV platforms to 74%. He acknowledged that DTH platforms had taken TV to the most remote areas of India, and the government was keen to encourage the sector.

“The most encouraging aspect of the meeting was the degree of consensus,” said Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of CASBAA. “Speakers from all sectors concurred that full digitalisation needs to come to India, and quickly. Where there is a real divergence of views is on the role of government – whether it needs to provide a guiding hand, or just reduce the controls and get out of the way.”

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), MSO Alliance, News Broadcasters Association (NBA), DTH Association of India, IPTV India Forum, Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) and CASBAA all agreed rapid digitisation would help not just the industry but also benefit consumers and the government.