Following the announcement of a new Headend In The Sky (HITS) project, JAIN HITS, by the Jain TV group, we spoke with Dr JK Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Jain TV Group, on the company’s foray in the business, future plans and tie-ups. Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

MediaNama: Why did you decide to foray into this business, when your peer, Essel Group had exited out two years ago citing uncertainty in the regualatory environment and absence of favourable tariffs?

Dr Jain: See, the timing of entry is very important for any new business. When Subhash Chandra’s company entered the HITS business there were no guidelines, or directions to support this venture, no directions for compulsory digitisation,and cumpolsory CAS. In the new regulatory environment HITS is a viable alternative as it’s cheap and allows for digitization of the entire country, in one go.

MediaNama: What about tie-ups? Have you partnered with any broadcaster yet?

Dr Jain: We just made the launch announcement. We are going step by step, first we streamlined the licensing part. Now we’re giving orders to hardware companies like Harmonics, Motorola, Via-Sat, another company for subscriber management system. So work orders are being given to a consortium of technology providers. We already have the infrastructure, manpower, space as NSTPL is already uplinking 50 channels from our port. It’s just one more extension of the same people who’re doing this work. The companies we’re partnering will not just fulfil orders but they’ll also install, operate and maintain services.

MediaNama: What about broadcasters?

Dr Jain: Yesterday we issued the statement as the first announcement. Broadcasters have been trying to get in touch with us and are curious. W have arranged a team and have finalised a model agreement. See, the TRAI has finalised all guidelines on carriage fee, revenue sharing, pay channel costs, so there’s not much of a choice. Technically speaking we’re another MSO, just that instead of ground, we’re broadcasting from the sky.

MediaNama: Any timeline that you’ve proposed for the launch?

Dr Jain: In the first week of November, we shall offer our test signals.

MediaNama: What is the advantage that you have over DTH?

Dr Jain: In a country like ours, for a good number of months in a year, you have cloudy skies, and rains. The DTH service gets disrupted, it’s not stable and reliable even being a digital signal as it uses KU band transponders. HITS will use C-Band and the signal is steady and not affected by weather conditions.

MediaNama: Why would cable operators go with you and not with existing MSOs, which already have a loyal base?

Dr Jain: We have no conflict of interest with MSOs. We are ready to give our signal to MSOs, mid-sized cable operators and small operators. I disagree with your assessment that they’re loyalty oriented people, I feel that they know their own interest. They have even been subscribing to 2-3 MSOs at the same time – there is no loyalty in this profession. The one who will give them good channels at a good price and a better quality signal- they’ll go with him. There is a digital head-end that an MSO has to put up – suppose he has a set up in Delhi, he can’t go to a small town in UP. Our digital head-end has no restriction of reach. Cable operators can put up a simple dish and can receive 200-500 channels on that single dish. It gives him independence from MSOs. The way we have structured our sharing arrangement, it will be far better for individual operators to go with us, than to remain subservient to existent MSOs.

In fact even for MSOs it will be cheaper to take our services than to run their own networks, and keep struggling with their head-ends. This is because of the ‘quality of service’ provisions of the TRAI regulations –  to give that quality they have to setup an expensive headend, set-up subscriber management and conditional access system – the figure goes into crores, plus monthly maintenance costs also goes into lakhs. So the capital investment and recurring cost is huge. They can increase profit by using our service. Also MSOs can continue to offer their own internet service, although we will also offer internet service on owr own.

MediaNama: Do you have an ISP license and operations?

Dr Jain: Yes we do have an ISP license. Infact we were the first one to sign an ISP license. We have some ISP operations, as well but they’re limited at the moment. We do have a team. Once we have our network, we’ll increase reach. Cable networks will become our networks and will be able to offer internet over cable networks, and VAS products like triple play, video on demand etc.

MediaNama: What about things like subscriber management services. Who will provide customer service and installation?

Dr Jain: Customer care and installation has to be done by some body – see our purpose is not to destabilize the cable operator, we want him to retain his business and his clients. The subscriber management system will follow the TRAI guidelines. We’ll have separate controls for channels, for different TVs in each household. We will have a subscriber management system at our teleport and the system will be bundled with the head-end in the sky. We’re calling it a mini head-end and there will be a transmodulator through which operators will receive channels. We will get to know how many people are receiving our channels where. All unethical practices will disappear with our system.

MediaNama: What are your views on NDTV’s lawsuit against TAM

Dr Jain: These are problems of the pre-digitalisation era, people are welcome to fight their battles. But with digitisation, every broadcaster would know who is watching their channels, so this problem would no longer remain.