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Uday Shankar pitches JioCinema against TV even as Harit Nagpal predicts Pay TV’s growth

While JioCinema is eyeing the consumers who are at the bottom of the pyramid and skipping TV altogether to OTT, the television industry is denying any possible cannibalisation

(Left) Uday Shankar, Harit Nagpal (Right)

Two Indian Media and Entertainment industry leaders presented contrasting views on the growth of the television sector at the ongoing Media Partners Asia’s APOS conference in Bali, Indonesia.

On the first day of the conference, Bodhi Tree Systems co-founder and Viacom18 director Udhay Shankar pitched JioCinema as the future alternative to television.

In a conversation with MPA executive director Vivek Couto, Shankar said, “What we believe is that you can create an alternative to television, and I’m not talking about just one streaming service or channel, but delivering the whole range and diversity of content. We think the time is right in India to create an alternative through an app – and that is JioCinema.”

“Only a broad, centralised service with multiple channels can deliver content to the massive “social and linguistic diversity of India,” he added.

Calling out India’s SVOD segment for being too focused on the top 5% of the pyramid, Shankar said he’s bullish on AVOD, and respectful of non-paying India’s AVOD viewers.

“Anyone who is willing to consume the content is our customer and we just have to innovate in the ways in which we can reach them and create value – and that’s the model,” he said. 

On the sidelines of the event, Tata Play MD and CEO Harit Nagpal told CNBC that Pay TV would ‘probably’ grow in India citing many homes who are yet to buy their first TV set.

“140 million homes out of 300 million homes are yet to buy their first television set. India probably has the lowest penetration of televisions compared with the rest of the world. If those people have no money to buy a TV, how do we expect them to pay for content and bandwidth? So, they will start with the television, probably go to free TV first and then some of them will migrate to Pay TV.”

When CNBC pointed out the young population skipping TV altogether and going straight to OTT, Nagpal quipped why 110 million homes are paying for the television $4 a month.

“If that was the risk, it should have shown up by now,” Nagpal said.

“During this IPL, Tata Play subscription witnessed the fastest-ever growth despite the tournament being offered free on digital. This was repeated during the recently concluded Asia Cup,” Nagpal said adding that something does not have to die for something to grow.

On the question of any possible cannibalisation of television, Nagpal reiterated that India is a world of “and” and not a world of “or”.

“Or happens in places where television is outpriced. Cord-cutting happens in countries where TV comes at $80-85 but OTT subscription costs $10. In India, TV is still available for $3-4,” he said.

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