Hinduja Media Ventures Limited's invest arm, has attained the for the Headend in the Sky (HITS) license. The firm had applied for it December 2012.
HITS is a multi-channel downlinking (reception), distribution and transmission technology, which enables all pay channels to be received at a central facility and uploaded by the operators to its satellite after the encryption of channels.
These signals can, then, be downloaded by local cable operators (LCOs) using a single satellite antenna to be forwarded to customers/subscribers, who can view channels by using their set-top box. The only other player with this technology in India is JainHits.
This technology will help increase the company's multi system operator's (MSO) InCable’s subscriber base by 15-20 per cent over the next two years, feels Tony D’Silva, CEO of Hinduja Ventures Media. Currently, InCable has a subscriber base of 8.5 million across 36 cities. “If all goes well, we should be able to roll out the technology in five to six months. Being a satellite-enabled service, we will roll out pan India, but our focus is the phase-3 and phase-4 territories in the digitisation process,” he adds.
The total investment the MSO is looking at making in the project (including the Rs 10 crore licence fee and Rs 40 crore bank guarantee to attain the licence) is to the tune of Rs 600 crore including setting up back-end systems.
Hinduja Ventures Limited recently raised Rs 300 crore through its wholly-owned subsidiary Grant Investrade. D’Silva adds the LCO in these regions is losing out to direct-to-home players and with the HITS technology, customers will be able to get service comparable with DTH at a much reasonable cost.
Despite the high-investment, D’Silva is confident the technology will be available to customers at a reasonable price since the cost can be spread over a large customer base. According to him, the back-end services can be provided by InCable at an average cost of Rs 22-23 a customer, which is almost half the cost per customer estimated by Media Partners Asia. Apart from providing an efficient back-end system, InCable hopes to launch the service with value-added services such as gaming.
InCable will provide service in the MPEG4 format accompanied by only high-definition set-top boxes under the HITS technology. It will launch the service on a pre-paid model where the LCO can customise the channel packages he gets from InCable according to the needs in his territory. Instead of subsidising set-top boxes, InCable is in talks with international players to design set-top boxes and will be purchasing them on a cash-and-carry basis.