The government has made it mandatory for all broadcasters - representing about 350-plus television channels that are currently allowed to be beamed on cable and direct-to-home platforms -- to share their feed with Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS),
IPTV and Mobile TV, the new cable distribution platforms that have emerged recently.
A clarification issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting recently makes it compulsory for all broadcasters to immediately share their channels with Wire & Wireless India Ltd, the HITS licence holding company of Essel Group.
This is significant because several broadcasters, including the STAR channels (distributed by STAR-DEN) and Sony bouquet (MSM Discovery), were not sharing their channels with Essel Group's HITS venture that will be initially launched across 12-cities in the last week of July.
WWIL would ultimately rollout HITS across all the 55-cities listed by the broadcast regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), for the proposed CAS rollout.
"The I&B ministry has told all broadcasters, including STAR-DEN and MSM Discovery, to share their channels with HITS platform of WWIL at the earliest," a source in the I&B ministry told Business Standard.
Similarly, operators of IPTV (Bharti, Reliance Communications and MTNL) or Mobile TV (Doordarshan) can now demand from the broadcasters any channel they want, even in the trial-phase, till an overall policy for all the new platforms comes out, an industry source said.
This move will also make Subhash Chandra-promoted Essel Group the pioneer of private DTH (Dish TV) and HITS. Dish TV is the first private DTH company in the country launched in late 2004, while WWIL will become the first cable company to have launched HITS starting July-end.
Digital Entertainment Networks, joint venture company with STAR India, is also interested in launching their own HITS platform and therefore waiting for the government to announce the HITS policy, a source in STAR-DEN alliance said.
It should be noted here that the government is yet to bring out its policy on HITS, IPTV and Mobile TV.
HITS is a new cable distribution platform that is similar in its technology with DTH. But unlike DTH, where the television signals reach the end consumers directly via satellite, in HITS, the cable operator receives the channels via a satellite and then pushes them to the consumers through a set-top box.
This, according to Trai, is a faster and cost-effective technology to enforce both conditional access system and the digitalisation of analogue cable.
The Essel Group is using a private satellite Asiasat-4 for the HITS operations and has booked 10-transponders on it. Its HITS rollout will have about 200 digital quality channels offered to the consumers through attractive schemes.