What next, now that digitization has begun?

23 Jan,2013

By Ananya Saha


L V Krishnan

The past two months, after the implementation Phase I of digitization, have been quite an incredible journey. From doubts about whether we would achieve 100 percent digitization at all to achieving it in Mumbai and Delhi. Of course the hiccups still remain. Probably Phase II will see less of these hiccups and more of successful implementation. This and many more issues about digitization were discussed at afaqs event in the capital titled ‘Digitization Begins’. The panellists not only discussed the ramifications of post-DAS scenario but also what the stakeholders should do to take advantage of digitization.


Numbers game

According to LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM India, the digitization onus is on marketing and programming. At the summit, ‘Digitization Begins’, culling facts from the data (based on eight weeks pre vs post DAS CS4+ in Delhi and Mumbai), Mr Krishnan said, “There has been 2.5 times growth in the availability of channels in the initial months but it does not match the viewing with 30 percent increase in incremental fragmentation.” He also noted how North and West markets in India are maturing faster than the Southern market when it comes to digitization. “Today channel-surfing behaviour is prolonged in digital homes, while direct landing is leading to increased reach for English entertainment, English movies, and the kids genre.” According to him, inter-genre surfing may also come down.


Other findings that Mr Krishnan shared included: with sports channels becoming omnipresent, other sports will also get benchmarked; viewing is getting spread from primetime to other day parts, eg: youth music to the early morning band of 7-9am. However, he cautioned, “The biggest disadvantage is that DAS will hit single channels since the top seven channels garner almost 80 percent of audience in DAS-enabled Delhi and Mumbai.”


Mr Krishnan, however, viewed digitization as a positive change and said, “The clear action step for the broadcaster to be present on distribution chain should choose between two cluster homes: home with kids, and home without kids. For the advertiser, they need to focus on cost of targeting, increase in co-creation of brands. Advertising will see a boost via paid media, and additional media budgets will get shifted from localized ground promotions to unique television content channels.”


The next 6-8 months will also see a spike in free-to-air channels, according to Mr Krishnan, to cater to the bottom-end of the market.


Chasing the momentum

Roop Sharma

Digitization was promised to bring in not only the set-top boxes (STBs) into the house of the consumer, but also digital services such as digital billing, services such as video-on-demand, broadband etc. Even though the seeding of STBs has been achieved, it is still a long way before we achieve digitization in the true sense.


Vivek Takalkar, VP, Marketing and Business Development, MediaPro and Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operators Federation of India believe that post seeding of boxes, digitization has not achieved desired results while Ashok Mansukhani, Director, Hinduja Venture and President MSO Alliance asserted that the all the stakeholders of the digitization process should work together towards establish contact with the consumer.


Sugato Banerji

Sugato Banerji, COO, What’s-on-India, noted, “Content discovery will become important for operator to push channels. As digitization progresses, EPG in various languages will also be required.” While broadcasters and content creators might struggle with monetisation, the panelists were of the view that digitization will result in demand for more content.


Giving the advertisers’ perspective, Anita Nayyar, CEO India and South Asia, Havas Media, initiated a discussion with Amit Tiwari, Country Head, Media and Digital, Philips India and Sunil Raina, Business Head, Lava International. Mr Raina emphasized content co-creation, while Mr Tiwari said, “Channels have to become brands. They have to think from a marketers’ perspective. Even though we have not changed our media plans, depending on digitization numbers, but I am sure that as digitization grows and sub-category of genres emerges, it will impact us directly. We will look at focused advertising.”


Anita Nayyar

Ms Nayyar noted, “When it comes to advertising, the brands prefer to go with what has been working in the past and their gut feeling. When the digitization process began close to Diwali, we did not have the numbers. But even then the brands advertised because it was the season and went with the gut feeling.”


Even as marketers have not clearly changed their media strategy based on initial numbers, it is clear that as content becomes targeted, media preferences could change dramatically.


Neeraj Sanan

Neeraj Sanan, CMO and Head, Distribution, MCCS India said, “Good content will determine market share and role of distribution will reduce. Even as time spent on television has increased by 5 percent, the choice has also increased from 80 channels to 250 channels.”


Even as business models will undergo huge changes, the panel believed that the future implications have not had any affect on their current strategies. And while DAS is believed to be a game-changer, the veterans think that more then the distribution equilibrium, it is the convergence that will have an effect on the consumption of content. As Mr Raina said, “It is important for us to integrate online and offline media to create impact. Plans are not going to change because of digitization but because of convergence. I would like to reach my consumer through the medium they prefer: it can be a television or a tablet. I have to be present where they are.”


With competition rising, Mr Sanan noted, “There are going to be some wild implications of digitization including, local events can become content through MSOs; a good EPG search engine could take off; concept of broadcast UGC can happen; with triple play, MSOs can think of ad options with a clear-to-call action.” He also noted how MSOs will start competing with national channels for content rights.


Though there is still a long way to go, digitization is throwing up interesting trends. How many of these will get converted, only time can tell.


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