With the Indian broadcast industry successfully moving past the goalposts of the first two phases of cable digitisation, broadcast companies, multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) have been forced to change the way they
operate and engage with customers. Content aggregators too have seen their role transforming in this changing landscape. In a conversation with FE Brandwagon’s Anindita Sarkar, Rajesh Kaul, president of TheOneAlliance, one of the leading content aggregators, talks about the concerns of the industry. Edited excerpts:
What are your major concerns with the cable digitisation process?
There have been a lot of learnings during the first and second phases of digitisation and now, we need to use those learnings and move forward. In the beginning, the MSOs did not believe that this kind of a sunset date could be possible; that complete digitisation can happen; and that the government will enforce the law on them. As a result, the MSOs were not prepared for this transition. Since the priority then was to convert analog to digital, the MSOs started
to aggressively distribute the set-top-boxes. And in that rush, the MSOs did not get any data from the subscribers. They issued the boxes to the local cable operators (LCOs) but did not keep proper records; meanwhile, they also did not sell the packages the way they were supposed to.
Digitisation also meant that the consumers should have had the option of choosing a particular channel and paying only for that. So, the first motto of digitisation was addressability. But this did not happen because the MSOs were not ready with their infrastructure.
Now with about 10 more months to go for complete digitisation, this is an opportunity for the MSOs to start putting their infrastructure in place and start seeding the boxes and set up call centres.
Experts argue that with digitisation there is no question of any capacity constraint. So why do we still have carriage fees?
Yes, we thought that with digitisation there would be no capacity constraint. This meant that there would be no carriage fee anymore. But then when phase one happened, the ministry of information and broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) asked all the major television networks not to expect the fruits of digitisation immediately. So all the broadcasters decided that they would continue to pay the carriage fee for the entire year. But this does not