Alokananda Chakraborty

Consumers will dictate terms: KS Sarma, CEO, Prasar Bharati

As industry bigwigs put their heads together at Frames 2003 to predict the future of the television broadcasting business, one point was unanimously clear that the consumer is king

"Why should consumers be bombarded with an avalanche of channels?" questioned Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, Sony Entertainment Television. The point arose at a discussion tilted Broadcast - 2008, Crystal Gazing, at Day 1 of Frames 2003 in Mumbai yesterday, in which speakers from diverse fields including Patrick Cross, managing director, BBC World, Ian Carroll, senior vice-president & general manager, Turner Broadcasting System, Asia Pacific and Rik Dovey, managing director, ESPN STAR Sports, Asia Pacific, besides Dasgupta presented their point of view on the likely state of affairs in the broadcast business five years from now.

Conditional Access System (CAS) seemed to be the preferred topic of discussion what with the Information & Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in his first ever press conference earlier in the day emphasising, "CAS shall be implemented". "It is clear, categorical, unambiguous and in the interest of all," he said though unwilling to give a timeframe for the rollout.

The Broadcast - 2008 seminar, which was moderated by the CEO of Prasar Bharati, K S Sarma, touched upon various other facets of the business. If Carroll from Turner talked about digital platforms, Cross of BBC World highlighted the way ahead for international news channels. "News has been a key driver of growth within the Indian entertainment sector," he said. "But one has to go back-to-basics. Hardcore news coverage is better than well-packaged fluff," he added.

In a quick synopsis, Dovey of ESPN STAR charted the scenario when DTH or Direct-to-home, broadband and CAS become a reality in the country. "There are more possibilities for the genres of sports and general entertainment as opposed to news," he said.

Dasgupta, on the other hand, took the audience through ‘Revenue Models' in the broadcast business emphasising that subscription revenues would be the key driver within the industry. "The KPMG report has highlighted that out of a total of Rs 111 billion, which is the size of the television sector in 2002, Rs 60 billion was the subscription revenue for that period. In other words, subscription revenues are one-a-half times the advertising revenues," he said.

Dasgupta predicted a jump in TV homes from the current 88 million to 120 million in 2008, while cable and satellite homes would increase from the current 44 million to 70 million five years down the line. "Addressability will be faster than we expect it to be," he said. "Ten million homes out of the universe of C&S homes will comprise the creamy layer who are willing to pay a premium for entertainment of their choice. Moreover, piracy of software will increase and the ability to adapt and be agile will be crucial," he added.

But a definitive point made by Sarma was a befitting conclusion to the discussion. "The power for bundling (channels) that exists today will be non-existent tomorrow with the ushering in of CAS. Consumers will dictate terms and determine what they want." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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