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Tata Sky getting into VOD: Hasty or first-mover?

Industry experts give them marks for being visionary as they believe that the near future will see DTH players entering the content creation space

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | March 15, 2016

tata_sky

With an extensive bouquet of channels to distribute, why does a DTH player suddenly think of aggregating content? Well, if one takes a closer look, content aggregation is not really new for the distributors – be it DTH, MSO or LCOs. Viewers have seen many localised movie channels in their respective distributor network, and that, ultimately is content aggregation.

Step two came in with other services like buying out cookery shows, music, and more recently, fitness content to be telecast on their own channels.

For instance, Tata Sky, which has the biggest subscriber base, sports a bouquet of channels under the sub-brand name ‘Actve’. It is definitely experimenting with offering these kinds of content. Now, in the next stage of maturity, the DTH provider has brought in 100 per cent comedy content, another owned-channel for the same, and has tied up with BSNL for the launch of a VOD (video-on-demand) platform. It has partnered with Comedywalas (a unit of Shemaroo) which is the content provider for its comedy service.

With many players launching their VOD options in the market, it remains to be seen whether the Indian market is ready for such a crowded place. The waters are yet to be tested. So, is Tata Sky being hasty in getting into content creation? Or will it get the first-mover advantage if ultimately all the DTH providers get into the race? Is content creation the next obvious step?

As of now, it looks like they are experimenting with these services. Even industry experts feel that the near future will organically see DTH players entering this space. They unanimously agree this to be just the beginning and probably the right time as VOD is at a nascent stage in the country. While there is nothing much to lose, the DTH player needs to know how to monetise it.

To explore the thought more, BestMediaInfo.com spoke to Tata Sky as well as industry experts to gauge which way the ball is moving.

Next Stop: Content Generation?

Pallavi Puri, Chief Commercial Officer, Tata Sky, vouches that her company has always focused on aggregation rather than getting into creating content. “We just aggregate, pack and deliver the desired content to the target audience. In a market that has equal channel distribution rights to all DTH players, the only differentiator is services and servicing. Content that is meaningful to different age groups, different regions of India at convenient time zones on different screens is what this game is about.”

Harish Bijoor Harish Bijoor

Harish Bijoor, Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., however feels that having platform advantage, DTH providers are looking at content creation. He sees this as a content play for the genre as he expects that these players will later get into providing content competing with that of the broadcasters. “As of now, they are offering content that is different from what typical broadcasters provide, but in the future this will change. A DTH operator is the umbilical connect to the viewer from a very physical point of view as of today. This connect can get monetised.”

Paritosh Joshi Paritosh Joshi

Paritosh Joshi, an industry veteran, has a suspicion that the players will soon move into the VOD space with content production. “They have a consumer base, and they should do anything that interests the consumer to prevent the consumer from turning away. One way of doing that is giving them unique content through some amount of content syndication.”

The art of timing

The industry, especially digital, is seeing rapid and continuous changes. The evolution is so quick that what will fit in which time-frame is a perennial dilemma. The industry has seen how Ditto TV, a paid OTT platform from ZEEL, was an amazing concept, yet, it didn’t see the kind of success that it should have. Many reasoned it to be too early in the market. While most industry experts believe that VOD is the obvious way forward for DTH players, has Tata Sky then taken a hasty decision?

Bijoor doesn’t feel so. He thinks it is the right time to enter this space. “DTH operators have spent enough time reaching out to the masses. It is time now to deepen that width of reach into depth of value-added profits as well.”

Puri of Tata Sky insists this is the right time. “We brought interactive services to the country about eight years back. We have launched services filling the gap of making services more available to people across towns and villages. Comedy was one such genre that we thought subscribers needed to have access to any time of the day. Hence, the partnership.

Some others feel that time only can decide whether Tata Sky’s timing is perfect or not. Divya Radhakrishnan, Managing Director, Helios, is one of those believers. “As a platform, they will obviously want to expand into other services. Whether it works for them or not is something time will tell. It is all about enhancing services.”

Will monies come?

While Tata Sky has decided that the interactive services will be ad-free and subscription-based, their idea of monetisation for the new comedy service is subscribers paying just Rs 59 a month. But are there advertising options?

Prasana Krishnan Prasana Krishnan

Prasanna Krishnan, EVP and Business Head, Sports Cluster, Sony Pictures Network India, said,

“It is always a case by case basis. If advertising on a DTH platform is something we would be open to looking at, then yes, of course. But I won’t be able to say which ones it’ll work for. It’s not that easy to say and will depend very much on the property.”

Adding his thought on VOD, Krishna added, “It is a question of how much volume they can get and how actively they can do that. None of them is looking into full-fledged channel launches or content on a very on-going basis. The market is going to get competitive all the time. No specific reason to fear them or worry about them.”

In conclusion, it seems that DTH providers are likely to get into the VOD space as they have a direct platform to offer content to their subscriber. Not only that, they directly interact with the consumers on a daily basis. Maybe, if not now, the near future will see other DTH players entering this space.

Joshi trusts that DTH has grown into a formidable force, thanks to digitisation. “They can ensure long-term retention of their consumer base. If they can’t monetise it, nobody can. They are the only B2C (business to consumer) connection. They actually have a way of earning revenue directly from the consumer,” he explained.

Radhakrishnan, on the other hand, believes that it is too early to gauge whether monetisation will happen so easily.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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