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Casbaa India Forum 2016 takes stock of pace of digitization

At Casbaa India Forum 2016, TRAI chairman RS Sharma urged stakeholders in broadcasting to actively collaborate on issues like infrastructure sharing and set-top boxes

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | March 23, 2016

Casbaa-India-Forum-2016

India Forum 2016, this year’s edition of Casbaa, took a look at the fast-evolving Indian broadcasting industry and examined the ripple effect of the country’s digitization initiative. Casbaa is the Asia Pacific region’s largest non-profit media association, serving the multi-channel audio-visual content creation and distribution industry.

The theme of the day-long event, which brought together all the stakeholders including Multi-system Operators (MSO), local cable operators (LCO), DTH players, satellite technology providers, and regulators, among others, was ‘Digital India: The Four Phases of Cable Enlightenment’.

Casbaa’s CEO, Christopher Slaughter, set the tone by establishing the relation between the digitization of the cable television system in India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India campaign. Speaking at the inaugural session, chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), RS Sharma acknowledged the challenges and opportunities as the country witnessed the fourth phase of Digital Addressable System (DAS).

He said, “TRAI is not here to promote legacy systems in cable TV where a structural monopoly exists. With the objective of providing the right of choice to the consumers, we will allow the march of technology. At the same time, for healthy growth of the sector, it is crucial to strike the right balance between all the stakeholders through a constructive dialogue.”

Taking lessons from the evolution of the telecom industry, Sharma urged the stakeholders in broadcasting to actively collaborate on issues like infrastructure sharing and set-top boxes. “Today five to six telcos are willing to share one mobile tower showing how sharing and competition can go hand in hand. This can materialize in the broadcasting space as well. While TRAI has no plans to make infrastructure sharing mandatory, it may tweak the existing licensing system to provide support to the stakeholders who are interested in the idea,” he added.

Through the day, representatives of industry and government took part in different panel discussions. The participants included SK Gupta, principal advisor, broadcast and cable, TRAI, R Jaya, joint secretary, broadcasting, Union ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB), UK Srivastava, principal advisor, NSL, TRAI, Nikhil Gandhi, VP and Head of Revenue, Disney India Media Networks; Nicholas Daly, MD, Eutelsat UK; Jagdish Kumar, MD and CEO, Hathway; Anthony D’Silva, CEO – Media, Hinduja Group; Deepak Mathur, SVP Commercial, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, SES and Archana Anand, Business Head, Dittotv.

Also on the podium during the discussions were Gaurav Gandhi, COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, Romil Ramgariha, Chief Business Officer, BARC India, Naveen Jhunjunwala, COO, BBC Global News, Nitin Bawankule, Industry Director, Google India, Anita Bose, COO, Madison Media Plus, T Gangadhar, MD, MEC, Neeti Sarkar; director-B&C, MIB, Sunil Kumar Singhal, advisor, TRAI, Pradeep Paramesweran, CEO, DEN Networks, K. Krishna, Vice President and CTO, Hughes India and Himanshu Patil, COO, Videocon D2H. Paulus Chau, Senior Manager, Global Accounts, AsiaSat, Thomas Antony, Sales Director, APT Satellite, Paul Brown-Kenyon, CEO, MEASAT and Gaurav Kharod, Country Manager – India, Intelsat, were also among the speakers.

The issue of interoperability of the set-top was discussed at length. SK Gupta of TRAI stressed the importance of pushing the use of a common set-top box by different operators. He pointed out that cost of procuring and maintaining set-top boxes weighed heavily on the balance sheets of MSOs, LCOs and digital TV companies. He also said that interconnected agreements between LCOs and MSOs can give two-way cable networks to the end users. R. Jaya, joint secretary, broadcasting, at the ministry of information and broadcasting, said, “Phase IV of cable TV digitization is the most prominent routes to broadband connectivity which is key for providing services to citizens. It is high time for the industry to understand the value of interconnect agreements.”  She also reassured the conference that the ministry would complete its cable TV digitization drive by 2050.

The session on over-the-top (OTT) services highlighted the importance of new platforms in providing on-demand content. Acknowledging the growth of OTT services, UK Srivastava, principal advisor, NSL, TRAI, said that the regulatory body would be floating consultation papers to assess the size of the industry and come up with related policies, if needed. Content IP and marketing were pointed out as the two challenges faced by new entrants in this space. The panel concurred that the OTT market was in an experimental phase, where players were toying with different revenue models to figure out what would click with consumers eventually.

The session on digital advertising covered the lack of matrix to assess the reach of the medium. The panel talked about the rise of video and the ways in which traditional advertisers were leveraging it. Prior to this session, Chairman and MD of Madison World, Sam Balsara, made a presentation on ‘Advertising trends in digital and uncertain economic times’.

In the session after tea, a mix of stakeholders discussed the state of regulation in the broadcasting space. Neeti Sarkar, director – B&C, MIB, said that MIB had minimal intervention in the content side of the broadcasting industry. “We have made our procedures smoother by allowing single window clearance at the time of launching a new channel. Having said that, there has always been room for dialogue with all stakeholders,” she said.

Sunil Kumar Singhal, advisor, TRAI, said that it was time to bring the consumer at the center stage and then create regulations. He said, “There is a trust deficit among stakeholders. In the last few years, significant investments have been made in the digitization drive. Now it is time for us to monetize these capabilities.”

As part of a special address, Jitendra Shankar Mathur, special secretary, MIB, talked of the recent developments in the media and broadcasting industry. “At the ministry, the pace of permissions have scaled up. In the first three phases of digitization, we covered 70 million households. We also realize the need for a broadcasting policy and are willing to have more related conversations with all stakeholders,” he said.

One of the key highlights of the event was the launch of ‘The Capacity Crunch Continues’, a paper developed by PWC on the present and future of satellite technology. This was followed by a panel discussion titled ‘Satellite Industry in India: Continued challenges’. The session covered issues like general procedural delays, taxation issues and the wait for a new sitcom policy in India. One of the observations made by panel members was on the satellite’s contribution to the Digital India campaign in case the Government decided to consider it. As of now, Digital India is being executed with the use of fiber optics, which is time consuming. Satellite deployment can be executed in a few days connecting thousands of Gram Panchayats within the country.

Casbaa’s India Forum brought together world class speakers from local and international brands to provide essential information about the business of multi-channel TV in the country. They discussed everything from its impact on content and advertising to how it is shaping the technology and satellite industries.

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