Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO of Tata Sky, analyses the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry in Phase III and IV of digitization, and also talks of Tata Sky+Transfer, the latest device innovation
By Simran Sabherwal
With about three months to go for the third phase of digitization, where is the industry placed? Do you believe that the rollout will be delayed?
We at Tata Sky were ready last December for the previous deadline and we will definitely be ready for the new deadline with adequate boxes and enough manpower in every one of the Phase III markets for installation. I don’t think there is yet a specific roll-out date, but we will be ready regardless.
Do you believe the government needs to give a regulatory push and also provide incentives, like subsidies, for a smoother roll-out?
As DTH operators, we have been running digitization for the last 10 years. We have got more than 50 million subscribers between all the DTH players, I don’t think anybody has subsidized us; we have been subsidizing the business. So, seeking subsidy at this stage won’t be fair. Regulation can actually make sure that the analogue signal after the deadline is completely stopped. If they manage that, if they help us with that, it’s more than enough.
What are the biggest challenges in the next phase of DAS roll-out?
The next phase of DAS roll-out is going to be slightly trickier compared to the first two phases. The first two phases were limited to cities and cities have boundaries. The next two phases are going deeper into the States and further into the districts. So, monitoring the blacking out of analogue signal may require a little more of government intervention.
What is the biggest opportunity you see in Phase III and IV?
The opportunity is to amass a larger subscriber base. That is what we did in Phase I and Phase II and we are hoping to do that in Phase III and Phase IV also. But, the biggest opportunity is actually for the industry as a whole. There will be transparency in the industry; the stakeholders including the government will get their due taxes, broadcasters who produce the content that we carry on our platforms will get their fair share and the platforms themselves will strive to distribute the money that comes from the customer in a fair and equitable manner. That is the biggest opportunity for the industry.
How has packaging evolved in India?
Availability of content is huge in India. It is not only genres which are Indian but foreign content as well. Almost anything you want to watch is available in India. Moreover India has so many languages each with its own content offering. Breaking that further or creating packages out of that for the convenience of the customer is a huge draw here. For instance, in households that don’t have children, there is the choice of not subscribing to kids packaging; similarly for music and so on. So the availability of content and the way it is packaged into byte-sized packs which a subscriber can pick and choose from, I think, that is at a very advanced stage in India. There is also the a la carte selection which essentially means you don’t have to pick up the whole package of movies or music but can pick and choose within that and make your own package. So, on the whole, it is an evolved market.
What is the proportion of HD users today?
Of the new subscribers that we get, almost a little over 50% are subscribing for high-definition.
Where do you see the next level of growth coming from – metros or interior areas?
Though growth is good in the cities but the big growth is really coming from outside the top 40-45 towns. More than 60% of the growth is coming from outside the Phase I and Phase II markets and I see them actually growing further.
How has the year been for Tata Sky?
For Tata Sky the year has been good so far. We have done more of what we are used to doing - providing more and more innovative services to customers. In addition to the High-Definition PVR, Everywhere TV, Video-On-Demand etc, this year we launched 4K during the ICC Cricket World Cup. We have also recently launched the Transfer set top box where a person can actually take the content that is sitting on his recorder onto his hand-held device and watch it while he is on the go.
Looking ahead, how do you see things panning out?
The industry has been helping itself in the last 10 years. We have invested very heavily not just in terms of money but also infrastructure, manpower and processes. We are hoping that the subscriber growth we have had in the past will continue in the future and that is what we are working towards.
Content on the Move
Tata Sky introduces Tata Sky+ Transfer set-top-box which allows subscribers to record, transfer and carry content on various devices
Direct-to-home television has come a long way. From recording content and video-on-demand, it is now possible to transfer content from your set-top-box onto smart devices such as smartphones and tablets and view it on the go. Tata Sky recently launched its new set top box (STB), called Tata Sky+ Transfer that helps subscribers do exactly this. According to Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO, Tata Sky Ltd, “We launched the recorder about seven years ago, which we converted to a high definition recorder five years ago. But increasingly we have seen that people who do not have time to watch Television at home also do not have time to watch the recordings. So the disk, however big it may be, gets full and then you end up deleting recordings without watching it. However, the same person has enough time on the go in a car, plane, etc. So, the new device allows you to transfer the recordings you have on the recorder to your hand-held device, be it a smartphone or a tablet, so that you can watch recordings while you are in a car, waiting for a meeting or in an aircraft.”
No external bandwidth is consumed and neither is the customer billed for the bandwidth as the WiFi network acts as a conduit to move files from the box to a smartphone. Once the WiFi is on, content is recorded on STBs, transferred on the offline mode and there is no data usage when the file is transferred from the STB to the preferred gadget. However, live streaming of content is charged for, as this utilizes bandwidth.
Digital Only Campaign
Tata Sky has also launched its first digital only campaign for the ‘Tata Sky+ Transfer’ STB. The campaign introduces “Transferkars” - a TV-addicted family who watch their favourite TV programme on the move and ends with the sign off ‘Record. Transfer. Carry’. Commenting on the consumer insights behind the product and campaign, Malay Dikshit, Chief Communications Officer, Tata Sky says, “Today, time comes at a premium, the consumer is finding it increasingly difficult to be constrained by fixed timing and location for viewing even recorded content. Thus, the demand for convergence and portability of content. The rapid increase of WiFi enabled homes open up new possibilities and potential for new offerings. The Tata Sky+ Transfer box delivers on this sweet spot, allowing subscribers to use their connected homes to enjoy their space and identity. Our focused digital-only approach with this new campaign along with the launch of an interactive microsite, would surely intrigue existing and prospective subscribers.” Dikshit adds, “The heart of this campaign will be Digital. The communication will be driven and led by the digital space and this is our change of modus operandi for this particular campaign which is different from a daily recharge campaign which is high impact on mass media and reach.”
This product is targeted specifically for the metro audience and is priced at Rs 7,200 for existing customers and Rs 9,300 for new customers. It is expected that the existing customers will be the early adopters of the STB but new prospects will also come on board with the box.
With content being the main attraction, concerns over piracy are not far behind. To combat piracy, it has been ensured that the content only works on the Tata Sky app where it is decoded and decompressed and it is available for a particular period of time, post which the file automatically self-destructs.