'Digitisation Begins', an event on digitisation and its implications organised by afaqs! at the ITC Sheraton in New Delhi on January 22, saw a panel discussion titled 'Digitisation is here. What next?'. The discussion was moderated by Paritosh Joshi, principal, Provocateur Advisory. The panel comprised Roop Sharma, president, Cable Operators Association of India; Vivek Takalkar, VP, marketing and business development, MediaPro India and Ashok Mansukhani, director, Hinduja Venture.
"That is exactly what is happening post digitisation in India, where each stakeholder in the industry is seeing the other as competition," Joshi added.
Sharma, however, didn't agree with the popular definition of the term digitisation as she feels that whatever Ambika Soni (minister of information and broadcasting) meant by digitisation, when the bill was passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, has not been achieved.
"The minister had promised that no cable operator would go out of business and hence we also welcomed the move. But we have problems in the way digitisation was implemented. To meet the deadline, cheap set top boxes were seeded into the consumers' homes. But, despite all these, even today, analog is on as Delhi itself has 400 villages and all of them continue to see TV; they don't have DTH. If consumers had to shift to DTH, they would have done it long back when DTH connections were being provided as free gift with a TV set," added Sharma.
Mansukhani, however, disagreed with Sharma, and observed that one needs to be fair to the government as it had increased the timeline for digitisation. Presenting the distributor's perspective, Mansukhani said, "I am happy for my industry with digitisation. Digitisation is a fact of life. No broadcaster can fight its distributer, as in any industry, distributor is the key. Even HUL depends heavily on distributors. We are collaborators and need to join hands and make digitisation a success because we still don't know the consumer."
Speaking on the future of cable operators, Takalkar observed that cable operators will lack in providing consumer experience as they don't know what the consumer wants.
Sharma, however, contested the argument by saying that cable operators have historically been looked down upon by the broadcasters but they are actually very forward looking, otherwise there wouldn't have been the flourish of channels and advertisers that the television industry has seen so far.
Mansukhani opined that the consumer today is changing as there are children who don't watch TV at all. "We have children who are more iPad oriented than TV. We might lose the consumer because we are not listening to the consumer. Cable is out dated and you see, lawyers can't run businesses as businesses need to be consumer oriented."
Takalkar said that consumer experience has improved to some extent due to digitisation. Conversations among the stakeholders have started and that is why one can say that the next milestone of better consumer experience can be achieved.
Sharma emphasised that cable offers personalised services, compared to DTH consumers who are forwarded to call centres. "Cable is better but since the mandate of digitisation was made, cable operators worked day in and day out to seed boxes in consumer homes. Cable operators need to be given good education to understand the system. They should be allowed to become an MSO and become big. Besides, we should also start working on monetization of cable TV," Sharma added.
The event was partnered by MediaPro and TheOneAlliance.