India's pay TV market is "unrivalled" in terms of opportunity, according to the NDS chief as he announced his company's conditional access and interactive software now powers pay-TV services in 20 million homes in India.
"Even better news is this is only the beginning," an upbeat Abe Peled, executive chairman, NDS told Rapid TV News. "The Indian pay-TV market is fuelled by the growing middle class who is clamouring for the quality content and services provided by direct to home providers, such as our customers Tata Sky and Bharti Airtel Digital."
India's vast and fragmented cable network is also to be digitised by the end of 2014, with the metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai leading the digital way in early 2012. This new timeframe, agreed by the government last week, provides subscriber opportunities for cable operators and with it business opportunities for NDS.
"The government announcement will drive digital cable," says Peled. "It is an ambitious deadline, but the only way to get started was to set a deadline.
"The demand for digital TV is there from customers, so the final element is technology. This creates an exciting market," Peled says, adding that prices for set top boxes have now fallen and are more affordable for many in India.
In addition to two of the six private DTH providers in India, NDS also counts major multi system operators (MSOs) Den Networks and Hathway as customers. More recently it has also signed digital deals with regional cable companies Darsh Digital and JAK Communications to provide end-to-end pay-TV solutions, including set top box and digital video recorder software, content security, and EPGs.
With an estimated 83 million of the 116 million cable homes in India currently receiving analogue signals via 500 MSOs and 60,000 local cable operators (LCOs), there is a vast amount of work to be done. Consolidation in India's cable arena is inevitable, believes Peled.
"If you look everywhere in the world, the onset of digital has led to consolidation. The smaller cable TV companies could not muster the resources to provide digital services.
"Foreign direct investment limits need to be raised to attract the capital needed for consolidation and digitisation," said Peled, who adds that the deployment of digital cable could also help increase broadband penetration in India from its current low base. NDS is currently working with cable TV companies on hybrid connections.
Although there has been speculation about consolidation in India's DTH market, Peled is not so sure. Certainly he says both Tata Sky and Airtel Digital TV have both the financial wherewithal and the physical presence to succeed.
"At the moment, I think each of the six DTH platforms are jostling for position and all are looking to grow their subscriber base rather than change technology, or merge" said Peled.
Ultimately though, Peled believes India provides immense opportunity for those involved in the television sector.
"The scale of the market is going to be unrivalled as, unlike China, which is also a vast market, India is more consumer-driven than government-driven."
NDS has invested over US$250 in its Indian operations, which comprise a research and development facility in Bangalore, as well as offices in Delhi and Mumbai. It currently employs about 1,900 people in India.
The company's strong local presence will, hopes Peled, continue to keep paying dividends for NDS in India.