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TAM Seminar: Digital is the next wave news
27 August 2008

TAM Media Research has started to despatch digital TV viewing data along with its weekly data release on broadcasting audiences.

Though the company has been measuring digital audiences for over a year, the data was reported combined with analogue data, since the digital penetration numbers was not high enough for facilitate independent reporting.

However, over the course of the last two years, digital broadcasting numbers have grown enough for TAM to start independent reporting, which would in turn see the dawn of new opportunities once this data starts being analysed. Industry sources say that media owners would increasingly track digital trends, and make course corrections in their plans accordingly.

This was reported by the company at the TAM Educate Seminar, Blink, which took place in Mumbai yesterday. 

TAM Media Research's CEO, LV Krishnan said with DTH players such as Big TV, Bharti DTH, Sun Direct, DishTV, Tata Sky and DD Direct ramping up, direct-to-home would be the next revolution in television, akin to the cable and satellite television revolution in the early 1990s.

Krishnan said that in 1994, cable and satellite had penetrated only seven per cent of television homes.  He said most people at the time could not see the future of television, which panned out over the coming years. Today, DTH penetration levels at 6.5 million homes, which are projected to be at the nine million mark by the end of the year, DTH is at the same seven per cent threshold of TV homes in India that cable and satellite was years ago.

Marking out the category, Krishnan said digital cable set-top box (STB), DTH, IPTV ad even mobile TV fell into the digital TV viewing category. 

Interesting choices
TAM Media Research has undertaken surveys on the conditional access system (CAS) and the direct-to-home (DTH) to provide an insight into viewer's choices when presented with multiple viewing options.

Krishnan said that with CAS starting in January 2007, almost 70 per cent of the audience has preferred to stay with free-to-air (FTA), which indicates that CAS has not really caught the fancy of the TV viewing public despite being mandated by the Government.

On the other hand, digital was another story. Krishnan pointed out that there were significant benefits of digital. Firstly, he said that people were watching more channels since the bouquet marketed by DTH providers made sure that there were more channels to watch.

Moreover, on account of the better quality being beamed by digital, people on average spent around 20 per cent more time on TV than they used to earlier. The most significant impact of digital, he said, was that viewer's time on preferred content had gone up.
Amongst the issues faced by DTH, Krishnan said that individual or bouquet of pay channels pricing was not well-received by all audiences. Moreover, the value added services of set top boxes, such as video on demand, interactive options such as gaming, etc., also remained largely unused, as most users were not educated about these options. However, the biggest issue was the speed of service.

Pradeep Hejmadi's address focused on the progression of digital TV from April 2006 to August 2008, with the number of television homes booming from  117 million to 134 million. He said cable and satellite homes grew from 71 million to 83 million, while DTH homes grew from 2.3 million homes to 6.5 million homes, outstripping cable and satellite in terms of growth percentages.
Hejmadi said focussed targeting was was here to stay. With more channels and increased time on the TV, Hejmadi said time spent in digital homes was 20 minutes a day more on average than in cable TV homes. He said channels on lower bands typically performed better on digital platforms.

One way ticket to DTH
Hejmadi said while a number of cable set top box homes had moved on to DTH, no DTH homes went back to cable STB. Cable STBs growth was driven largely by the CAS mandated homes. 

In urban India, DTH and cable STB are very close in penetration. DTH has picked up very well in rural India, with a clear domination of free-to-air channels. Channels such as Star Utsav have done very well in these markets. While DTH's urban expansion has been at the cost of cable STB homes, rural India audiences have migrated from terrestrial homes. 

While the all India digital penetration is at six per cent, in Hindi speaking metros the number is at 12 per cent. The top six metros contributed 40 per cent of the digital universe.

The axe gets sharper
TAM's Sharan Sharma talked about the future of measurement and TAM's endeavours to utilise the STB for research purposes.
Sharma said that TAM is working toward a STB Return Path Data (RPD) that would enable the advantage of a large sample size, and therefore, precision in data. The exercise is planned for implementation with 10,000 Mumbai digital homes. The STB is an efficient device for the consumer to experience viewing choices, while at the same time for the research agency it is an efficient measurement tool. 

Amongst the advantages of RPD, broadcasters and production houses can test new programmes, better gauge specialised genres, and better target marketing activities. Advertisers and advertising agencies would also be able to target special segments.

TAM's Blink seminar also featured a panel discussion comprising members of the digital, broadcasting and cable industry. Amongst those present at the event were Bharat Kumar Ranga, President-International Business, Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd; K Jayaraman, MD and CEO, Hathway Cable and Datacom Pvt Ltd; Jagjit Singh Kohli, CEO and MD, Digicable Network India Pvt Ltd; Dheeraj Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director, Creative Eye Ltd; Peter Mukerjea, Chairman and CSO, INX Media; and Paritosh Joshi, President, Star India.

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TAM Seminar: Digital is the next wave