Paritosh Joshi: Wither Digitization?

24 May,2012

By Paritosh Joshi

 

We are down to just over a month for mandatory digitisation in the 4 metros. Newspaper stories suggest bullishness among DTH players even as major cable providers signal some nervousness and even seek extra time to get all their ducks in a row.

 

Let me say this bluntly.India will lose a massive opportunity if all the spoils of digitization went to DTH.

 

But first, a quick look back. To the beginning of this developing story.

 

India’s economic liberalization and initiation into C&S television happened almost simultaneously. Even as Peter Arnett on CNN was telling the world about the bombing of Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm in early 1991, Dr Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Narasimha Rao were getting busy with preparing the blueprint for India’s economic liberalisation. Almost by some divine providence, television and the economy were both getting set to kick into high gear in tandem. As the period since has shown with impressive consistency, as television has grown wider and deeper, so has the economy.

 

Inevitably, technology has reached the point where the legacy of the analog system must be superceded by digital technology. The change is not sudden, having begun with the Conditional Access System (CAS) in 2002 and gathered momentum with DTH’s arrival in the form of Dish TV in 2005. While CAS was unable to make much headway, even in markets where it was made mandatory, DTH saw accelerating growth after the launch of Tata Sky in 2006, and then an operator explosion, starting 2008.India now has as many as six commercial and one public service DTH services, more than any other major market in the world.

 

By definition, DTH services cover a very wide footprint, typically the entire Indian subcontinent, and often extending to points well beyond that. This provides great advantages to multi- or pan-national audiences, but is of little use to broadcasters or content owners who target a more tightly defined audience, be it based on ethnicity, language or geography. Also, since the service is delivered via satellite and doesn’t have a native return path, return paths have to be bolted on separately using a terrestrial or cellular telecom network, or an independent vendor’s internet service as is being tried by Indian DTH operators.

 

Terrestrial digital cable services, on the other hand, frequently bundle television and internet services on the same cable and, by implication, have an inbuilt return path from viewer to platform operator. This creates a range of opportunities in terms of bringing transaction based services, payment solutions and so on that are accessible from a simple TV remote. Indeed, the best of breed in many parts of the world now offer triple play (TV, Internet and Basic Telephony) or even quadruple play (triple + Cellular Telephony) off a single connection.

 

In addition to their versatility, digital cable systems simply have much more bandwidth to accommodate more content and services than satellite transponders. This advantage will become more significant as more genres and channels move from standard definition to high definition (or SD to HD is common parlance). HD channels use 3 to 4 times the bandwidth of SD and as setup costs of HD fall, broadcasters will be looking to deliver better viewer experiences with the switch.

 

Amongst all the issues we have raised above, perhaps the most significant is the possibility of localizing television. Every city and town in the country is, potentially, a distinct television market. There is local news to be reported. There are local stories that must be told. There are local merchants who must advertise to their customers. And there is plenty of creative talent that is raring to have a go at tapping into these opportunities. If only there is a platform that can support them.

 

That platform is not DTH.

 

Paritosh Joshi was until recently CEO, Star CJ. He has been a marketer, a mediaperson and been a key officebearer on industry bodies. He can reached via his Twitter handle @paritoshZero

 

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2 responses to “Paritosh Joshi: Wither Digitization?”

  1. Poonam Singh says:

    Hi Paritosh
    I am reminded of the time when the economy opened up in India. More specifically when the telecom industry shot ahead. We moved from 6 months waiting (or more), for a telephone connection at home, paying humongous deposits! to breaking the price barrier where everybody worth his salt has a cell phone. We basically leap frogged into the future as we didnt need to go through the learning curve. I would put digitisation in the same category, water will find its level.

  2. Keertan says:

    nice one PJ.

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