Cable TV is not keeping pace

Updated: Oct 31 2005, 05:30am hrs
For most product and service offerings, India could hardly be classified as a homogenous market. However, the entertainment services sector exhibits the diversity of the market. On one hand, different socio-economic profile of the customers imply the different needs and expectations of the customers. On the other hand, different linguistic zones make it imperative that there is adequate bandwidth to cater to the infotainment needs of cosmopolitan nature of the population in urban markets.

Cable, as a distribution technology, has done a tremendous job in developing the cable and satellite market in India. However, in absence of appropriate regulations, and the lack of investment into new technology, cable, as a distribution platform, is not able to keep pace with either the expectations of the customers or the developments in the industry.

These networks continue to distribute channels in analog format and, thus, are not able to distribute more than seventy-odd channels. On the other hand, there are already more than 150 channels over the sky. Also, since the services on cable networks could not be tiered, there has been no incentive or business model for broadcasters to launch any premium/value added services.

Direct-to-home service plugs in that requirement smartly. As the footprint of the satellite covers the entire country, the large number of 40 million households who have TV but are not connected to cable could now access the services. The large number of customers acquired by Indias first DTH service in a short span of time is an indication of the opening of this large market in India.

While there are no restrictions in terms of channels being carried on DTH platform, what makes it really interesting is that one could tier the services to cater to different segments in the market.

Thus, for the first time in the country, a customer now has the power to choose what he wants to see and pay accordingly. This also opens up the market for the broadcasters who wish to launch niche channels or launch value-added services such as video on demand, interactive television, etc.

Thirteen years back, the launch of Zeke TV revolutionalised the media industry in India and one has seen tremendous addition of value in all the elements of the value chain.

The introduction of Dish TV in the country is the precursor to another wave, which is set to revolutionalise the entertainment sector in India.

Will that mean the end of cable To be honest not really. The growth of DTH would ensure that cable networks do invest into the business to upgrade their services and try to match with the standard set by DTH.

Also, the low-entry cost for cable would ensure that large number of price sensitive customers do remain with the cable. DTH would grow exponentially both in rural as well as amongst quality conscious customers.

However, what is significant is the fact that next time a customer finds that his favourite channel is missing from the line up or that the channel line up has been changed without any reason or that he is not getting some of the channels he wanted to see, he would not have to resign to his fate, he would know where to contact to get alternate services. And that thought itself would bring smile back on his face.

The writer is CEO, Dish TV