Sunday, 1 June 2008

Restructuring Of Cable TV

In continuing its effort to regularize the industry, TRAI is now serious in restructuring the cable television industry. Last month it had two open house discussions with the stake holders, one in Bhopal and the other in Pune. The subject effects so many last mile operators and MSOs that even two open house sessions may not be adequate. Unfortunately many cable operators have not yet felt the importance of the subject, due to a long lasting stalemate in the industry. I feel they have resigned to their fate or have shifted their focus on other business, only waiting for some miracle to happen in the industry. 
Taming the television ratings and viewer ship is another issue that created quite a stir in the industry last month. The open house discussions attracted many stake holders. All advertising agencies and broadcasters were confident of making their newly formed BARC as the apex body for the purpose rather than let the government control them. Contrary to this, the consumers and network operators wanted strict government regulations as consumers were highly effected by the TRPs, considering that the content that they consume is effected by them. All channels provide the same type of content that gets the high TRPs, on one channel. Broadcasters have also been successful in delaying introduction of the content code as the meeting of stake holders committee that was to take place in the I&B ministry last month has been postponed indefinitely. Since the next general elections are approaching soon, it appears the government will go slow on any new regulation to avoid any controversy. 
Although in principal the government has cleared CAS implementation, the broadcasters have, once again put a spoke by bringing in the piracy issue. Surprisingly government has accepted such a frivolous issue to stop modernization of the cable networks and sacrifice benefit to the consumers. They did not have any hitch introducing CAS in DTH, IPTV, mobile communications etc as if these were all fool proof systems not susceptible to piracy. It is also strange that broadcasters start shouting on their voice for self regulations only when government tries to tighten up the noose on them. Content code, Broadcasting Bill and CAS implementation are clear examples. In practice they do nothing. Even now the ads get banned for obscenity. 
DTH is in the hot news once again with Reliance announcing a massive marketing blitz selling their package for Rs.1000/- for the existing DTH subscribers. This has already set in a battle situation in the market with Dish TV giving STBs free. What I have noticed in the last three years is that DTH operators have not made any considerable dent in the cable market and are more busy fighting a war amongst themselves. Even the latest Dish TV ad showing SRK literally begging the consumers to take a free Dish connection saying “Ab to wish karo Dish karo” indicates this fact. Well that is the power of cable. In the near future after the cable TV is restructured I have full belief that even the telecom operators will use cable last mile for their triple play. 
This month we shall see you all in Singapore in “Broadcast Asia 2008” from 17-20 Jun.

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



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