How Cable TV began and spread in India
Cable TV has its roots in the late seventies. Indian television viewers were looking for entertainment options, apart from what state-owned broadcaster DD was offering. That came their way with the import and manufacture of video cassette recorders permitted domestically. There was a veritable boom in video cassette recorder sales during this period. Enterprising individuals in apartment blocks placed a video in their homes or their garages and started offering a cable TV service to people who opted for it. The fare available was Hindi and English movies and pirated western comedies, music and game shows. At this stage, cable TV was restricted to the major metros and towns and the upper crust of society.
Subsequently, no extensive research was conducted by the industry which went by guesstimates until two readership surveys were conducted in 1995. The two national readership surveys: the Indian Readership Survey and the National Readership Survey pegged the penetration of C&S at below 10 million in 1995 whereas industry estimates placed it at least 14 million. The NRS said that 9.3 million homes in urban India were cabled while the IRS said that the numbers for urban and rural India were 8.4 million and 3.4 million respectively. No further updates have been done because of the magnitude of the research covering a population of almost 70 million TV homes today. Nevertheless, the satellite TV industry has upped its estimate for C&S homes to about 22 million now attributing the increase to the spread of the cable TV networks in smaller towns, villages and untapped developing areas on the outskirts of major metros, where cable TV is being installed in housing at the time of construction itself.
*Frank Small studies; the rest are industry estimates
The business has undergone a transformation too. In the beginning it was small and driven by entrepreneurs. At one time the cable TV operators population was estimated at a sky high 100,000. Your neighbour's wife and brother-in-law also wanted to be a cable operator. For the past three years, large companies have also set up their own cable networks. Among them: InCablenet (managed by the Hinduja group), Siticable (a joint venture between Zee TV promoter Subhash Chandra and Rupert Murdoch's News Television), Asianet, Hathway Cable & Datcom, Ortel Communications and RPG Netcom (a company promoted by the RPG group). While the Hindujas claim to have invested close to Rs 2000 million into their network building, Siticable talks of a higher figure of close to Rs 2500 million. But the MSOs have concentrated on the major metros only. They have yet to spread out into the smaller towns and the interiors of India over time where cable TV networks are still in the hands of small businessmen.
The entry of the big boys in the business led to consolidation amongst smaller operators several of whom combined their resources to set up sophisticated headbands capable of delivering 30-50 channels similar to the bouquet of the MSOs. And as the MSOs increased the number of channels that they were offering, the independents have also kept pace. Today, in cities like Mumbai, Indian viewers can hook into more than 65 channels. . Some of the major agglomerations that emerged initially were: Seven Star and Shree Bhawani in Mumbai, Malleswaram Cable Network and UCN in Bangalore, SkyVision in Ahmedabad. By 1999, one of them had partnered with the fast moving Hathway Cable & Datacom. But they all operate on the similar model: franchising of their cable TV feed to smaller operators.
The programming that cable TV offers ranges from Hindi films to local events like fairs, religious discourses, civic elections, regional news, community games such as Bingo and favourite local sports. Practically, every network has at least two cable channels -sometimes both of which screen Hindi movies and songs. At one time they also screened pirated or illegal versions of English movies. This ceased with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) cracking down heavily on these cable operators. But piracy keeps cropping up on cable TV networks the moment the pressure is eased. The larger cable TV networks have their own branded channels too: Siticable has SitiCinema.; InCable has CVO while Hathway has C-News.
STATEWISE PENETRATION OF CABLE & SATELLITE TV
Source: IMRB study for Sony Entertainment Television
©Copyright; Ambez Media & Market Research, 1999.
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