The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust upon the industry, a completely unprecedented situation which has impacted all spheres of life. While the pandemic had a significant negative impact on the media and entertainment industry, it brought in a few positives as well for the sector. We saw greater engagement and higher viewership during the lockdown. For instance, kids programming has seen good offtake during the period, while IPL has boosted the TV viewership in the latter half. But reverse migration and economic pressure has severely impacted the industry. Notwithstanding the situation, the digital content distribution industry has a robust future; driven by the continuous evolution of consumer preference gradually shifting from FTA channels to pay TV and subsequently to HD and hybrid solutions.
One clear trend in the sector is the realignment of the services like layering cable TV with broadband and value added services, clubbed with OTT – which not only facilitates a self-contained work from home solution for customers but also provides 3600 infotainment for the entire family. So, the endeavor for digital platform companies would be to build a stack of useful products to deal with the current and unraveling situation. Hence, I foresee a trend wherein local cable operators (LCOs) would gradually upgrade themselves to FTTH and focus on offering hybrid solution – cable TV, broadband to satisfy consumer’s evolving need for digital bouquet service. must be supported with strong digital payment platforms.
We have already seen that the pandemic has acted like a catalyst to accelerate the deployment of online/digital payment collection which has seen a huge upsurge over last few months in order to ensure safety and well-being of consumers as well as LCOs. This trend is likely to strengthen over the coming years. Hence, the industry must gear up to adopt this change very seamlessly.
The other strong advantage which cable TV brings to consumers, which in turn, acts as a strong USP for the platform, is its ability to serve localized content by broadcasting different local events, festivals in vernaculars, thereby building the relevant connect with respective target groups. Since content is likely to play bigger role to connect with consumers, this competitive advantage of cable TV is likely to play a more instrumental role goingforward.
Another important aspect which is likely to witness a significant growth is infrastructure sharing. The need of the hour for multi-system operators, especially the regional and independent players is not just to sustain their business, but also grow in the changing paradigm. And today, besides an increasing cost of operations, especially connectivity and technology obsolescence, MSOs are facing significant challenges, some of them existential. The order from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, notifying sharing of infrastructure by HITS operators with MSOs, addresses that very issue. It allows such MSOs to sustain and grow their business and stave off technology obsolescence by sharing the HITS infrastructure to deliver their services – cost-effectively. The potential for infrastructure sharing stands at over 69 million cable TV households today – comprising mainly independent and regional MSOs.
Hence, the next few years seem to be very exciting for the sector with new business avenues and emerging opportunities waiting to be explored. Looking forward to being a part of such exciting times!