Only 59% (&not 87%) digitization achieved!

25 Oct,2012

 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

Only 59 per cent of digitization has been achieved in the four metro as per the first ever independent survey of the extent of digitization in the four metros was conducted by Television Street Maps for MxMIndia. This number is in sharp variance to the claim made by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that 87% of the four metro was digitized.

 

The figures for the four metros tell the story:

 

For Cable & DTH:

Mumbai: 86% (Govt: 99%)

Delhi: 45% (81%)

Kolkata: 53% (81%)

Chennai: 49% (85%)

The gap grows when you look at the achievement of digitization only in cable homes.

 

Mumbai: 62% (Govt: 99%)

Delhi: 34% (78%)

Kolkata: 35% (74%)

Chennai: 19% (60%)

 

 

 

On Tuesday, we made a clarion call to the mandarins of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting urging them to put an end of this charade of make-believe numbers of digitization.

 

MxMIndia strongly believes that digitization is THE ONLY way in which the broadcast business can survive and thrive. For too long there has been much confusion amongst stakeholders. With half-baked regulations and guidelines, certain sections of the ecosystem were getting away with unethical practices.

 

India has been among the most happening markets in the global broadcast business. Most of the world’s media superpowers are here. What was needed was some order in the business. Which digitization was going to bring in this, as it happened internationally. Unfortunately, the government has appeared to have missed  a trick in its attempt to execute this.

 

The Sunset Date for the switch from analogue to digital transmission in the four metros was first fixed as June 30, 2012.  Then it was shifted at the last-minute to October 31.  When this writer mentioned that even that date looks tough to achieve, there were many in the industry who said that the momentum will build eventually.

 

Although MxMIndia had been running a series starting 100 days to the June 30 deadline, we didn’t look at digitization in a big way until there 50 days left for November 1. But soon after interacting with all stakeholders, we figured that none of the numbers on the extent of digitization achieved that were being dished out could be believed.

 

Jaldi 5 with Joydip Kapadia: Data based on ground-level info + professional & expert assumptions
 

The government claimed an 87% achievement of digitization while the study conducted for MxMIndia by Television Street Maps showed this achievement to be only 59%. While this figure is for cable and DTH homes, that in cable homes alone is a low 38% as against the I&B ministry claim of 81%. MxMIndia spoke to Joydip Kapadia, Business Head, Television Street Maps on the issue:01. There is a huge variance between the TSM study figures of 59 per cent total digitization as against 87 per cent which the government is quoting. Why do you think do we have this huge difference between the two figures?

I wouldn’t be in a position to comment on the numbers quoted in other studies. After all, whether its the authorities or TSM or other third parties releasing info about the ground, we all have to resort to diverse methodologies and assumptions. Sometimes the estimates of individual studies could vary due to the underlying assumptions considered. These assumptions work at multiple levels – each or all of these assumptions levels could influence the end result. For instance, differences in defining the areas within the city, definition of Digital TV (including or excluding DTH), total cable homes in a city extrapolated from census and other sources – are just some of the places where assumptions taken upstream within the analysis could produce variations in numbers coming out downstream – at the end of the analysis. All I can say is that our data is based on information obtained from the ground overlaid with our professional and expert assumptions.

 

02. By your estimates how much do you see the 59 per cent grow to by October 31?

It’s difficult to predict given the scale of the initiative and the number of players and variable involved. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess.

 

03. Would you see broadcasters lose out because of the delay (given more carriage fees, the delay in transparency, but then assured reach)

We have actually not looked at these aspects so I wouldn’t like to say anything on that.

 

04. Is there any one thing that you would like to see being done right if there’s a delay in the date and/or for the digitization for the rest of the country?

We are not direct stakeholders in this and cannot offer any advice in this regard.

 

05. 05. Do you think it would be prudent for the government to push the digitization date in the four metros by another three months?

The math for all stakeholders comes down to what is the overall target to achieve vis-a-vis the seeding pace of the industry to reach that target. If that Math adds up then great, else the verdict would be to budget for greater time.

 

It is then that we commissioned Television Street Maps (TSM),  India’s largest and widest channel distribution monitoring service covering over 1500 headends across  675+ cities/towns, to conduct this study. TSM placement monitoring data is provided on a weekly basis to its clients who include names such as Indiacast, One Alliance, Viacom18, MSM, Star, UTV, etc. Besides providing distribution monitoring for analogue and digital for Class-1 towns, TSM has recently started providing distribution monitoring for LC1 towns as well as Digital Track, a system to analyse Digital offerings of MSOs and DTH companies.

 

Over the last two years, TSM has been tracking cable headends on a daily basis and reporting on a weekly level in almost a cable census style – covering every headend for the geographies it represents. While the data provided here are just the toplines we intend to provide detailed insights to our client on DAS. (see box: Jaldi 5 interview with TSM Business Head Joydip Kapadia: Data based on ground-level info + professional & expert assumptions ).

 

Methodology of Data Capture:

Over the last two years, TSM has been capturing TV channel distribution on a daily basis – the expanse of which is now a staggering 1500 headends across 675+ towns. This daily activity has been augmented since August 2012 for the four metros to capture the movement from analogue to digital at a more granular level. This augmentation/ expansion has been done using extensive ground intelligence and multiple verifications due to the criticality of the data. To ensure correctness of the data, more frequent scans were done in the last few days. The current release is for the ground situation as on October 23, 2012.

 

The ground info on Analogue versus Digital has been layered with metro universes data collated from census and other third party sources to ultimately validate and put together the digital penetration data for the 4 metros.

 

The sharp variance in the numbers as per the TSM survey and those put out by the government is reason for worry. But this is precisely what led MxMIndia to commissioning this study. No one really believes the numbers that are being put out by the government though MxMIndia, like other media, has been publishing these.

 

MxM View

MxMIndia recommends that the government act in a mature way on the issue. While a delay will mean a loss of face, it’s better to schedule for a time when 100 percent digitization is truly achieved. At the time of writing, we’ve heard of rumours that the government may well announce a delay by two months. We would urge the government to not look at December 31 as the Sunset Date. There is a fair amount of special programming on television planned on that day and the government would be well advised to look at a date like January 31.

 

However, while doing so, it must get assurances from the governments in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu on compliance. The government must also meet all stakeholders to ensure that everyone is on the same page and is working towards the greater common good. It may be a good idea for it to appoint a full-time Officer on Special Duty for digitization. Either someone from its ranks, or pulled from the industry.

 

A note of caution: there is a general election coming up in 2014, possibly earlier. Elections have been lost due to grave national issues and teary ones like onion prices. If there’s any mess-up with digitization, the government can ill-afford a crisis where the masses won’t get to watch their favourite shows on telly. Then, the cry will surely be: alag chahiye!

 

 

 

Post a Comment 

3 responses to “Only 59% (&not 87%) digitization achieved!”

  1. K K Sharma says:

    A good work done to bring the reality on the surface. But unfortunately, Ministry is bent upon doing what it has decided even before the law was made. The law itself had many flaws and it was passed in the Parliament, purely in the heat of Anna Hazare movement and mispresenting certain facts in the Parliament. When some MPs questioned the impact of Law on thousands of small cable operators, the Minister said that HITS would take care of that. She did not know that HITS did not exist at that time. One large Broadcast Group had started HITS a few years ago but failed to get any market because it was not feasible in Indian scenario. THat company wound up their operations rendering many small cable operators incur heavy loses investing lakhs in HITS equipment. Even now one company is trying to activate HITS but pay broadcasters wouldnot give them any content and Ministry can do nothing about it.
    When some MPs questioned about affordability of the digital services to the poor people who were enjoying cheap analogue cable, she said that various schemes of the MSOs and providing choice to pick only the required channels and pay for them would reduce their monthly expense. What do we have now; people will spend Rs 800- 2000 for an STB for each TV and then pay two to three times more to avail their choice.
    In every country Digitalisation was mandated only for terrestrial television where the government could save on spectrum and auction for telecom services like 3G, 4G WiFi etc. Like in the US government started the exercise in 2005 and till date has not been complete the proces 100%, even after giving USD40 per TV to each terrestrial subscriber to buy an STB.
    Why has our Ministry not given any priority to this. Doordarshan has been spending crores on theis exercise since many years but no one in the country knows where has that money gone.
    ASCI of Hyderabad did a study on cros media holdings in India and monopolies created by Media companies in 2008-9 but Ministry has done nothing to solve the problem because these media houses are the ones who are pushing the government maximum to do analogue blackout- it will help them tremendousely in extracting more money from the masses.
    This fudging of numbers is only a part of the whole game and common man can do nothing about it.

  2. Himanshu Agarwal says:

    Note to Editor:

    Sir,
    Each time I see the ad featuring Shweta Tiwari urging her viewers to switch to a STB, I wonder what the bosses of radio think.
    Maybe, they think…’yeah… switch to radio instead; you don’t need a STB for listening to radio.’
    or a voice in their head urges the advertisers, ’please shift those monies to radio…we are still tracking our score in the thick of a festive season…’, upon TAM’s decision (along with IBF, NBA, AAAI) to defer the data by two months.
    It will be interesting to read MxM’s take on digitization’s impact on the flow of advertising monies to radio, print, internet etc, especially in the wake of recent developments and MxM’s own findings along with Television Street Maps.

  3. Himanshu Agarwal says:

    A nice post indeed. However one angle that I would have liked to be covered in this post was, How does it effect TAM’s decision to defer the TAM data to December 19, 2012. That seems to be a futile decision in the face of around 50% digitization. Are we bracing for a bigger mess? Deferred TAM data and ~50% digitization.

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