David Blecken
Oct 22, 2013

Piracy, pay TV and the cost of differentiation: CASBAA convention

HONG KONG – Topics at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) convention this morning included the ever-present challenge of piracy, achieving growth in Indonesia and the impact of the imminent digitisation of TV in India.

A panel discusses India's digital TV transition
A panel discusses India's digital TV transition

In a session on the topic of piracy, Teymoor Nabili, presenter and executive editor at Channel News Asia, questioned three executives as to whether the industry was failing to play its part in reducing the motivations for piracy. Nabili suggested that making content more easily accessible would reduce the need to obtain it illegally. He added that in the music industry, Spotify and iTunes had been relatively successful in reducing content theft.
 
However, Joe Welch, SVP of government relations for Asia at 21st Century Fox said he disputed data indicating that companies like Spotify had reduced piracy. He, along with fellow panelists Paul Berriman, group CTO of PCCW, and Jonathan Spink, CEO of HBO Asia, also denied that pay-TV would benefit from reducing the price of its content. They argued that this would result in a decrease in quality. Instead, all three asserted that it remains the responsibility of governments to block piracy sites. Welch noted this was gaining momentum. In addition, Welch said search engines need to do more to block sites that facilitate illegal access to content.
 
A session featuring Rudy Tanoesoeddibjo, CEO and president director of PT MNC Sky Vision and hosted by Vivek Couto, executive director of Media Partners Asia, later examined the growth potential of Indonesia. Tanoesoeddibjo noted that Indonesia does indeed represent a major opportunity, but criticised the approach of many broadcasters, which he claimed had been intent on making money while paying little attention to quality.
 
Given that free-to-air broadcasting is considerably more profitable than pay-TV in the market, he said differentiation is critical—meaning that the onus is on channels to create their own content. “It is very important, but also very expensive,” he admitted. “We are not in the business of making money. We are in the business of empowering, educating and entertaining Indonesians.”
 
He also criticised channels that are aggressively seeking to raise revenue from advertising sales. “There has to be a limit,” he said. “Some channels have already over-exploited subscribers. [Some advertising] is OK, but we have to say ‘enough is enough’, otherwise why [should people] go to pay-TV?”
 
India is also likely to see a decrease in advertising as a result of its forthcoming digitisation. In a panel hosted by BBC presenter Sharanjit Leyl, Monica Tata, MD of South Asia for HBO India, said the move would signal a much bigger opportunity for brands to shift from an ad revenue model to a paid subscription one. Full digitisation is still more than a year away, and there are concerns that viewers may resent having to pay more for content. Tata said achieving differentiation is likely to be “tough”, but that she expected consumers to pay provided they are given a compelling reason to do so in the form of content or experience.

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