Raahil Chopra
Mar 26, 2015

FICCI Frames 2015: 'India shouldn't beat itself up'

A session on the roadmap for Indian broadcasting featured TRAI's SK Gupta, Discovery's Rahul Johri, Star India's Sanjay Gupta, Siti Cable's V D Wadhwa, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting's JS Mathur and Viacom18's Sudhanshu Vats

FICCI Frames 2015: 'India shouldn't beat itself up'
The session 'Vision 2020: Laying a transformative roadmap for Indian broadcasting' on day one of FICCI Frames 2015 started with TRAI's,  SK Gupta's address.
He said, "There are 158 million customers in the television space. Out of these 40 million are using DTH, 30 million use DAS, and 60 million using analog. Different reports say growth is going to be good, at around 16 per cent. Revenue will grow to Rs 900 billion according to the FICCI Report. While growth has been good, satisfaction hasn't reached the consumers. The situation is such, that if the current pie is 'x', it has a potential of growing to 'x' to the power 'n'. N is the amount we want it to grow (by). We at TRAI are helping by increasing transparency. We're giving guidelines for rating agencies too. We need agencies to be transparent for advertisers."
His talk was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Vanita Kohli Khandekar, columnist, Business Standard and Mid-Day.
She started by saying, "In 2000, we had a Rs 2,000 crore film industry which was unorganised. That's when the Government gave it an industry status. Multiplexes came in, and the industry grew by around seven to eight times. It has produced some of the best creative work. It shows what one piece of good regulation can do. Then in 2000, we had the first phase of radio auctioning, which was followed by phase two in 2006, which brought in 285 stations."
"These two industries are an example. Digitisation in television can add a couple of billion dollars to the industry in the next two years," she added.
She followed this by a question to SK Gupta: "TRAI has brought sense to the centre. But many recommendations are ignored. What can be done (to get them implemented)?"
Gupta responded, "It hasn't been turned down by the government. The issue is that there are complex issues with each application. The understanding of each issue and the methodology for each would be different. There have been certain issues where decision making has taken longer than expected. One has to look at the different aspects of a recommendation before giving it a green signal. I'm sure the Ministry is looking at it."
JS Mathur, additional secretary, Ministry of Information & Brodacasting, echoed Gupta's sentiments. He said, "I would want to state that these delays are not because of the stubborness. Within the Government a whole lot of factors are taken into consideration before something can happen. Some people come and ask me whether digitisation will be further delayed. I ask them what's the basis behind such a question, and the person has no answer to that."
Next, the moderator questioned BBC Global News', CEO, Jim Egan, about the UK market. He said, "There are challenges in each and every market. India shouldn't beat itself up. The growth of the Indian media industry is staggering and is happening at a great speed. This year, we're celebrating the 21st birthday of the internet. Yet, this topic is always discussed on day three of events, that too in a session after lunch. It shouldn't be sidelined."
The moderator went on to ask the panelists about two things that need to be in place going ahead, in their view.
VD Wadhwa, ED and CEO, Siti Cable, said, "First, we have to be ruthlessly honest among all stakeholders. First, we need to complete digitisation. That's what will set the platform. Then we need to co-operate instead of compete to increase the consumer spend."
Harit Nagpal, CEO and MD, Tata Sky, said, "When you have competition fighting against each other like dogs, it's difficult. (When) I'm acquiring a consumer by subsidising costs by around Rs 5,000 (on the box, installation etc.), I will hold onto them for my dear life. I'm okay serving my consumer coffee in the morning if he didn't sleep well the night before."
Rahul Johri, executive VP and GM South Asia and Southeast Asia Discovery Networks, Asia Pacific, said, "It's a great time in the industry. It's an industry built by entrepreneurs. You shouldn't regulate such guys. We need to scale, and that will happen with digitisation. We don't need over-regulations. We don't need to be told how many minutes of advertising etc. should be running on our channels. We need to focus, where we need to focus."
Sanjay Gupta, COO, Star India said, "Broadcasters are creating super content. We're doing well, but compared to something like the soap industry, we're still small. We are a two-trillion dollar company. We shouldn't be looking at numbers, we need to unlock value. For that, we need de-regulation. Look at the car industry -- Maruti and Mercedes sell at different price points. We charge Rs 10 for Star Plus, a GEC watched by large numbers, but we can only charge Rs 2.50 for Star World. How ironical is that? People should be paying extra money for the premium content on Star World, but that's not the case."
SK Gupta responded, "How many consumers have a choice of individual channels? They're buying a bouquet of channels. Prices are lesser for bouquets compared to specific channels. Out of the 400 channels, how many channels do they actually watch?"
Sudhanshu Vats, group chief executive officer, Viacom18 said, "In order to increase the size of the pie, pricing is critical. If we stay focussed on the price of the analog times, we are limiting ourselves. We want to believe in competition. We have to believe in a free market."
Tata Sky's Nagpal surmised, "People watch genres and not channels. When someone watches news, he normally doesn't want only one channel. But, we still went against this thought and launched this service. We even had an ad campaign for which I allowed Rs 20 crore to be spent. It has worked for us. We have a lakh of our consumers choosing their channels and building their bouquet of channels. We're still seeing that grow."    
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