Amitabh Kumar, Director Technology, Zee Essel Group

The year 2017-18 could turn out to be one of the greatest transformative years for the media industry in India.

Digitization, Tariffs, and Interconnect

The industry, which delivers over 800 channels DTH and cable systems to over 350 million households in India, has now entered afully digital era .. On a parallel track, the TRAI has notified new Tariff and Interconnect Regulations, which govern the charging for channels, as well as ground rules between distributors such as DTH operators, MSOs, and cable operators. The implications of these are unfathomable, as it brings in full transparency and would significantly increase the revenues of all players in the sector while reducing litigation. India has already been witnessing a high rate of growth in regional channels in all genres, and the new order will reinforce this process. HD channels are expectedto grow by 50 percent within one year in the new of distribution, tariff and interconnect ecosystem.

Broadband Costs and OTT Services

The cost of broadband data, which is critical for growth of services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hooq, and others, has fallen to 10–30 percent of levels prevailing just one year back. At current rates, the OTT services are very affordable and the year 2017 will see the beginning of a trend where on-demand content consumption will start to become a fact of life. With DRM and better piracy control, even prime content and relatively recent releases will embrace these new platforms. Generation of new content by these media platforms for their own captive use could get a major boost as the numbers rise. Increasing smartphone penetration facilitate linear and on-demand content consumption together with augmented reality and advanced content enhancements and value-adds. These will now start weaning away premium customers at a rate faster than envisaged any time before.

Media Infrastructure

Spotlight has now also been turned on the lack of infrastructure for delivering media-related services. The DTH industry over the past long years has suffered from lack of transponders for expansion, which was accentuated by insistence of the space agencies to use only limited bands and spectrum. With all round launches of DTH and HITS systems in other countries, use of two-way Ka-Ku band systems, hybrid two-way DTH services, the lack of initiatives in India on these fronts is now planned to be set right in a very short time. Agencies are working on plans for high throughput satellites (HTS), spot beams for hyper local content, and a series of launches planned in 2017 for enabling media services to the same level as IT a decade back. The media Industry could get Infrastructure status like the telecom and IT, and these will help spur further developments.

Focus on New Technologies

The Indian industry is now set to shed part of its legacy infrastructure and take a quantum jump in new technologies. These include HEVC encoding, UHD, and 4K channels using HDR technologies and end-to-end content protection via DRM. The launch in Asia of all HD DTH systems such as Dish HD-Asia on Asiasat-4 satellite and Next Step Freesat DTH are showing the way ahead on how technologies are likely to progress. TV Everywhere associated with DTH or cable with content delivery to multiple devices including smartphones will see a further fillip.

Industry to Focus on Hyper Local Content

With digital medium of delivery to end customers, the limitation of number of channels goes away, and customers for the first time will get preference to watch channels of their own language and region. Hyper local channels which showcase events in just one city or town will become viable just as in the US and Latin America. We expect prime hyper local channels to take root both as liner as well as via OTT on-demand.

Emergence of New Players

The ecosystem is now also right for new players in content generation and delivery to provide a new dimension to the existing largely linear services adding the OTT, Wireless, or FTTH space. Enabling of infrastructure sharing in DTH and cable means that specialized marketing companies can now enter without infrastructure and associated overheads.

Content Generation

With the new initatives, like OTT, wireless, FTTH, and 4G and modes of on-demand, we expect to see a significant change in the way content is regulated and controlled in India. A new media infrastructure is in the offing, and a new era is on the horizon for the media industry.