Mumbai: India's cable television industry seems headed for a consolidation ahead of a wider digitization roll-out. The most recent sign of this, say industry analysts, is Hathway Cable and Datacom Ltd's decision to gain complete control of its cable television joint venture, in which it had a 51% holding.
Hathway informed BSE on 18 January it had bought the remaining 49% stake in Hathway Bhaskar Multinet Pvt. Ltd from DB Corp Ltd's promoters for an undisclosed sum.
Hathway Bhaskar is a cable TV distributor in cities such as Bhopal, Indore and Jaipur. "This is initial indication of industry players consolidating. Hathway is gearing up to monetize and grow its footprints in the tier 2 and 3 markets, which fall under the phase 2 digitization roll-out," said an executive at Hathway Cable, declining to be identified.
Television viewing in India is shifting from analogue to digital platforms. The Union government has mandated cable TV to be digitized in a phased manner across the country by 31 December 2014. The first phase of digitization of television signals has been implemented in Kolkata, New Delhi and Mumbai, while Chennai is still holding out. The deadline for the second phase of digitization is 31 March.
"The television distribution industry is undergoing the initial signs of on-ground consolidation," said Ashish Pherwani, partner at audit and consulting firm Ernst and Young. "As MSOs (multi-system operators such as Hathway) increase control over their entities, it will result in increased transparency, financial discipline and control, and improved governance."
The size of the Indian cable television distribution sector is estimated to be about Rs.20,000 crore, according to executives in the cable TV industry.
The Indian cable TV industry's total subscription revenue is estimated to grow from $4.2 billion (around Rs.22,386 crore today) in 2011 to $6.4 billion by 2020, with broadband contributing 15% of sales by 2020 versus 85% for pay TV, according to Media Partners Asia Ltd, a Hong Kong-based independent provider of information services.
Drawn by this potential, Subrata Roy-promoted Sahara India entered the cable distribution sector in July last year by buying a majority stake in DigiCable, a cable TV company promoted by Jagjit Singh Kohli.
The DB Corp promoters, though, had been looking for an exit. In 2008, they offloaded their controlling stake in Hathway Bhaskar Multinet to Hathway and became a non-operative partner. "DB Corp wants to focus on its print business, radio and Internet in tier 2 and 3 towns and, therefore, wanted to exit its investment in Hathway," said a person familiar with the matter, declining to be identified.
A DB Corp spokesperson declined comment. Ashok Mansukhani, president of MSO Alliance, a lobby of multi-system operators, and director of IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd, which operates the InCable network, said, "With the advent of digitization, it is the serious players that will consolidate while the ones whose major focus of business is not TV cable operations will exit."
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