Dish TV has been at the forefront of revolutionising the satellite broadcasting space in the country. From its recent acquisition of Videocon DTH to having a presence in international markets, Jawahar Goel, Chairman and MD, Dish TV, has been at the helm of guiding the company to newer heights. In an interview with Ruhail Amin, Goel spoke about how digitisation has changed the game for broadcasters, the impact of newer distribution rules, the challenges of unregulated content online and more. Edited excerpts: 

You have closely worked in the overall Indian media space for a long time now, representing broadcaster’s interest through bodies like the IBF (Indian Broadcasting Foundation). What are some of the challenges that you see in the media space and have the growth opportunities been as per expectations from the likes of digitisation?

In India, the cable business started in early 1990s, especially during the Gulf war, when CNN used to showcase live coverage of the war and soon after Zee started its operations in 1992. During that period, the technology allowed us to showcase only 20 channels which later went up to 80-90 channels with the improvement in technology. 

I believe digitisation is an enabler to accommodate more channels. We were in an analogue environment and there was limitation of capacity and, from there, we have come a long way. Now, you can tune in to over 2,000 channels, thanks to digitization.

Newer distribution rules have come in play now. How do you see this impacting the broadcast business and distribution revenues? 

There is history behind it. The satellite broadcasting industry in India has been around for over 25 years now. Until 2004, when the broadcasting regulation responsibility was given to Trai, the cable industry used to witness bloodbath on the streets. With the coming of this specialised board, the satellite broadcasting industry has got streamlined with new regulations being framed and new guidelines being followed. 

Not only that, it has also become a participatory process where all the stakeholders are invited to share concerns and the feedback is implemented. Even the Trai thought that the regulation was old and needed a new framework. However, despite that the problem persists. The industry still works on the principle: might is right. It is important to take into account all the stakeholders and their interest rather than just few.

How do some of the recent changes, including the advent of OTT, impact the DTH sector in India?

This is a challenge to the entire broadcasting industry because we have content regulation for TV, Print and 

Radio. However, the consumption of content online and on OTT is beyond the regulated content and that is a challenge for the broadcasters, the content creators, social scientists and even the government. It is important to avoid a scenario where there is regulation for one stakeholder and not the other; it should be uniform across the board. 

Dish TV was among the first in the space but sees intense competition now — what are some of the initiatives undertaken over time to stay ahead in the game?

We were held back in our growth when we brought the license as some broadcasters did not share their content with us. We are the only listed entity in this space and listed entity has to also take care of the shareholders and you have to be careful of your top line and the middle line as well. It happens that sometimes you compromise on your growth and take care of just the middle line. 

At the same time, there are some players who have plenty of money and do not borrow. I think that kind of a scenario where you throw in a lot of money can be an issue which will remain my concern.

Dish has a presence in international markets like Sri Lanka. Are there any plans to bolster your international presence in the years ahead? 

We invested in Sri Lanka as it was a premium market for us. There was another player operating in that market with premium pricing, almost comparable to European markets. Ever since we entered that space, the pricing has got slashed and the Sri Lankan public is benefitting from it. As far as more international presence is concerned, right now, we don’t have any plans beyond our footprint. Moreover, India for us is already a big market as far as media is concerned and we want to focus here. – Business World