The sheer scale and roll-out of this initiative needs large-scale planning and coordination among all stakeholders, training and orientation. Awareness among LCOs and MSOs are equally important.
CQ : How will cable digitization benefit the people and the industry as a whole?
Sandeep Arora : Cable digitization will revolutionize the TV viewing experience; it has the potential to make TV viewing more personal, interactive and social. Also, a rise in the number of pay channels is expected, with substantial improvisation in the content.
Cable digitization will also streamline the underreporting of subscription revenue by LCOs; as a result MSOs would gain an estimated 6 fold increase in subscription revenue. It will further help cable service providers to tap additional business opportunity in the form of value-added and interactive services.
The industry will witness many mergers and consolidations because LCOs will tie up with triple play service providers or MSOs, to upgrade their infrastructure.
CQ : What is the role being played by Cisco in this regard? What is the investment that the company has made so far? How much more can be expected?
Sandeep Arora : Cisco is working very closely with service providers, to be at the forefront, to drive the digitization process in the country. We have comprehensive product and solutions for the industry and work with seven out of ten top MSOs in India. With more than 300,000,000 homes around the world watch TV with Cisco, nearly a quarter of all global TV homes are now enjoying improved viewing experiences with us. Moreover, achieving the milestone of over 30 million digital homes in India is a testament to Cisco's commitment to India.
The sheer scale and roll-out of this initiative needs large-scale planning and coordination among all stakeholders, training and orientation. Awareness among LCOs and MSOs are equally important. Therefore Cisco organizes annual 'Cable Summit' for LCOs and MSOs to educate them on the importance of digitization and also participates on a regular basis in various workshops aimed at generating awareness amongst Cable MSO's and LCO's.
The digitization requires huge investment which can be a challenge for LCOs and small MSOs. To deal with this, Cisco also offers flexible financing choices to cable service providers through its finance arm Cisco Capital. Cisco also provides hosted / managed services which unlike CAPEX model are not capital intensive. The end-to-end hybrid infrastructures, that are hosted and managed by Cisco, provide a scalable and flexible service that allow for additional innovative features to be deployed quickly and easily as and when required.
Our video strategy is glass to glass which implies that we have a comprehensive play from the lens of the camera to the glass of the TV screen. Cisco service and solution platforms are in the prime position to address the changing needs of pay-TV operators now and into the future. Cisco has a strong offering in the space that helps the service providers to be ahead of the curve and differentiate their services.
CQ : As per the mandate, cable digitization will be completed by December 2014, so what is next? How much of it is already completed? How has the response been so far?
Sandeep Arora : We have already seen successful completion of first two phases, the second phase, according to data given by I&B ministry was set to digitize 1.6 crore households, that ended on March 31st 2013, in 38 cities across 15 states. A total of 1.3 crore STBs have been installed in cable television homes, while the rest are DTH households. The process of switching over to digital service from analogue is going well across the country. The third phase of digitization is being implemented in all other urban areas (municipal corporations/ municipalities), cities, towns or areas not included in the first and second phases, by September 30, 2014. The rest of the country will be covered by December 2014, under fourth phase.
As mentioned earlier, the digitization will revolutionize consumer's TV viewing experience. The viewers' in the metro are already enjoying these benefits, as the digitization drive has already been completed here. They are demanding lot more than these services such as Time Shift and Personalized TV experience and consistent experience across screens. Digitization of Cable TV Distribution System will also help in increasing broadband penetration in the country.
CQ : What new services can the consumer expect post digitization?
Sandeep Arora : Post digitization, consumers will witness a paradigm shift in television viewing that would enhance viewing experience through better picture clarity and wider content choice. The consumers will be exposed to not just a wider array of content but evolved user interfaces with a variety of interactive services and the ability to select content according to their need. Digitization will allow broadcasters, satellite operators and cable operators to provide services such as Video on Demand, high speed internet services and interactive television services. Consumers will be exposed to targeted ads which are relevant to their television watching patterns, a choice to record their favourite media content, games, educational content etc
While viewers in the metros are already enjoying the benefits of digitization, they are demanding much more. For many mature viewers, who mostly reside in big cities and metros at the moment, digitization can offer a lot more services in the future. It opens up many never before and unthinkable possibilities for them such as Time Shift TV, OTT, personalized TV, and consistent N screen experience to name a few.
In years to come, the multi screen video will become more synchronized, personalized, and social, we will see new applications that we can only begin to imagine today. Emerging services for in-home automation and security, and home, health and lifestyle applications are just the beginning. To capitalize on these innovations, service providers need a flexible, software-based video system that can grow and evolve with new customer experiences.
CQ : Some of the product and solutions offered by Cisco for the same? How will these change consumer's experience as well as benefit cable service providers?
Sandeep Arora : Cisco offers integrated and end-to-end video and content delivery solutions. By catching market transitions and listening to our customers, we continue to execute on our goal of driving innovation and sustainable differentiation and that enables our customers' long-term success. Video is one of the top priorities for us and we have bolstered our offerings in this segment by acquisitions and innovations in the space.
Cisco's offerings for pay TV industry
Cisco has end to end hybrid infrastructures, hosted and managed which provide a scalable and flexible service that allows additional features to be deployed as and when required. Cisco has adopted a software + solutions approach in its innovations.
Cisco Videoscape Express Hosted: It is an all in one, pre integrated package that is ideal for small and medium sized cable TV operators that want to migrate from analog to digital within a limited budget for capital expenditures. It offers the benefits of a fully managed end - to end cable system without the significant initial software, hardware, and integration costs
Middleware and CA: Cisco MediaHighway middleware keeps your organization at the center of SPs subscribers' video experience. It easily allows to easily add new features without the need for new hardware. It can therefore improve quality of service while getting a better return on SPs hardware investment
Set Top Boxes: As mentioned before, Cisco has introduced two more models of Set Top boxes (STBs), an entry-level SD digital terminal adapter (DTA), and HD Zapper, localized and priced competitively for India and emerging markets.
EPG: Cisco has designed new Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) solutions for smaller operators that will enable them to customize their look and feel. This unique solution is designed for Indian cable operators who not only want a cost-effective technology to quickly digitalize their network but also brand identity with a customized EPG design
'Cisco Videoscape Snowflake': An award winning User Interface (UI) is a new approach to content navigation, providing a rich and consistent TV experience across multiple devices. Based on an intuitive UI, the principles behind Snowflake are simplicity and ease-of-use. It will access the discovery of all types of content broadcast, recorded/stored, on-demand, over-the-top programming, and third party on-demand services on all types of device, including PCs, TVs, portable media players, tablets, smartphones and opening up windows for Service providers to monetize their investments
CQ : Which are the MSOs you have tied up with?
Sandeep Arora : As mentioned earlier, Cisco has established itself as the leading provider of enhanced TV viewing experiences to more than 30 million Indian homes. Using the industry estimated average of five people per household, Cisco is now enabling a rich and advanced TV experience for over 150 million viewers, a milestone that reinforces the company's leadership in the digital pay-TV solution market in India. Cisco is a trusted pay-TV technology partner for more than 100 operators worldwide, with leading Direct To Home (DTH) and cable operator customers in India including ADN, Airtel Digital TV, Asianet, Atria, CCN, Darsh Digital, DEN Networks, Fastway, GTPL, Hathway, JAK Communications and Tata Sky, to name a few.
CQ : What are the opportunities Cisco sees in the Indian cable network industry?
Sandeep Arora : The Indian pay-TV industry is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic in the world. Cisco is committed to delivering a host of world-leading, affordable and innovative solutions and services to help its satellite and cable customers to differentiate their services in their markets in India, which has an estimated 135 million pay-TV homes. We take pride in enabling cable operators to become lifestyle-experience providers by presenting services like residential TV, HDTV, gaming, video on demand and broadband services to retail consumers. Cisco is committed to change the way people are entertained and informed.
CQ : How has the acquisition of NDS helped Cisco?
Sandeep Arora : To strengthen Cisco's commitment to video, Cisco continues to innovate and acquire companies that help in strengthening its position in the space. The acquisition and subsequent integration of Scientific-Atlanta, now the core of Cisco's Service Provider Video Technology Group, significantly bolsters Cisco's IPTV Solution proposition via the addition of STB, video distribution and video system integration portfolio assets. Cisco's Advanced Video Services Group effectively leverages the acquired Scientific-Atlanta video expertise.
With more recent NDS acquisition, Cisco has expanded its global video footprint in new and emerging markets, further broadening its service provider presence and deepening customer relationships. NDS engineering and leadership talent further strengthens the Video scape solution and broaden Cisco's capabilities. The acquisition has helped in bringing a secure, enhanced video viewing experience to various devices at home, while helping service providers to differentiate their video offerings.
NDS enables Cisco to offer next-generation TV platform as a hosted, managed service, enabling both satellite and Over-the-Top (OTT) service delivery. The platform allows subscribers to access content anytime, anywhere and on multiple devices whether in the home or on the go.