Tracking Access under Digitalisation (TAD)
Both MSO and DTH operators sit at the apex of TV distribution networks. Consequently the problematic of ‘access’ in TV pertains to both, physical connections with the distributors’ infrastructure and, through it, to types of commercial programming and content. However, unlike MSOs, the DTH operators connect TV homes directly to broadcasters through digital wireless transmissions. Many of them have either sister concerns (entities owned by the same Group Company) in content-producing sectors like broadcasting, or in other carriage-providing sectors-—be it within the TV industry, like MSOs, or outside it, like mobile telecom. It thus becomes pertinent to explore how such DTH affiliates leverage their commercial, technological and content pools across these sectors to mediate access.
Framework of Concerns
Any systematic investigation of Access must entail the examination of three values:
Diversity: Foremost, there is a need to investigate the diversity of interests driving various DTH licensees; this entails examining how their business strategies, especially the leveraging of sister-companies in the broadcasting/related sectors, have come to shape market power in the TV distribution segment.
Openness: There is a need to investigate whether existing Interoperability protocols of compression/transmission and software/middleware/hardware enable technological openness—which in turn provide viewers the ability to freely change service providers and thereby exercise choice—or, do prevailing technological standards effectively lock viewers with particular DTH Licensees.
Affordability: The advent of digital multiplexes has created conditions for DTH distributors to price discriminate against certain kinds of content in favour of others, or their own. Thus, in a market populated by a diverse and inter-operable set of DTH Licensees, bundling of services/products forms the final frontier of mediating access to digital broadcast signals.
Profiling the Landscape
The initiative has two components, the research design of both being developed in an interconnected manner.
The first looks at the supply-side of the distribution landscape, i.e. DTH Licensees. Through a Case Study approach, select DTH Licensees and their competitors from the cable segment will be profiled. These case studies will be designed to enable systematic and comparable inquiries into each Licensee, and will entail document analysis and interviews.
The second component looks at the demand-side i.e. subscribers/viewers of digital TV. Sample Surveys will be conducted to evaluate how households are engaging with the digital transition in pockets of Metro cities (mandatorily digitalised in October 2012) and Tier-2 cities (mandatorily digitalised in March 2013).
Drawing on evidence from both components, investigations into core policy challenges—such as Market Power, Interoperability, Bundling etc—will be addressed.