With India accounting for nearly $1.4 billion loss of revenue due to piracy, experts and participants at the CASBAA conference are of the opinion that digitisation of cable services from 2014 in India will be a game changer for the entire industry as it will help in reducing the piracy and will also provide the identity of the subscriber which is using the services.

“Digitalisation will be a big game changer. Till now if one was to invest in any Multiple System Operators (MSO)'s or an operator one could never know how many subscribers are because of analog systems on which you cant keep a tab essentially. Digitalisation will mandate the encryption of feed both free-to-air and pay that ensures one piracy and subscriber activated system will give you the identity of the last mile subscriber which is using the services,” Star India executive vice president and general counsel Legal Deepak Jacob said on the sidelines of CASBAA Convention-2011.

As per CASBAA report-2011 released in Hong Kong, Piracy in India will reach to the whooping figure of $ 1.44 billion by end of 2011 from $ 1.33 billion last year.

Recently, President Prathibha Patil has given her nod to an ordinance, which would make digitisation of cable services mandatory by 2014. The shift would mean all customers must have a set top box whether they want to receive free-to-air or pay channels. They will be able to watch high quality channels of their choice on an a la carte basis and are likely to have access to Internet and telephone through the same digital cable.

To a question that whether it will increase the cost of the service, Mr. Jacob said, "Consumers have to pay marginally more from current lowest level of Rs 85 which they are giving for the service, that will go up to in the range of Rs 100-125. But if you want premium services than consumers have to pay or else they have an option to go to government owned service of DD Direct DTH."

The ordinance aims at complete digitalisation of cable television in the four metros by March 31, 2012. The target date for completely digitising cable sector in cities with population of more than 10 lakh is September 2014, while nation wide digitisation is expected to be achieved by December 2014.

Further, he said the biggest thing in the digitalisation ordinance from the investor point of view is that finally if he does decide to invest in a cable business at least he will get to know the subscriber base. "If you get to know your subscriber base then you can actually make a business plan based on subscriber base into ARPU, you have revenue, return on investment also," he remarked.

CASBAA is the Association for digital multichannel television, content, platforms, advertising and video delivery across Asia. The objective of CASBAA is to promote the growth of pay TV and video content through industry information, networking exchanges and events while promoting global best practices.