Star-Zee partnership could improve economics of organised TV distribution industry
Moneylife Digital Team 30 May 2011

IDFC says joint venture between the two largest broadcasting groups could be a game changer in the TV distribution business in the country and would help drive addressability and digitisation

Last week, broadcasting networks Star-DEN and Zee-Turner signed a 50:50 joint venture, setting up the largest broadcast bouquet in the country with 68 channels. Through this set up, Star-DEN and Zee-Turner aim to improve the industry dynamics, particularly for cable operators, which should translate into superior subscription revenues for them over the longer term. The new venture, named Media Pro Enterprise India, has been described as a critical development for the industry that will drive addressability and digitization as also improve the economics of the organised industry.

IDFC Securities Ltd believes that "Media Pro will be a formidable force in the TV distribution industry and will have the inherent capability of changing the TV distribution landscape in the country. With Media Pro poised to command pricing power, we believe it would drive addressability in the Indian TV distribution landscape. This would aid in shifting the 'value add' in the industry from the unorganised local cable operators (LCOs) towards broadcasters and multi-system operators (MSOs)."

Today, there are four major broadcasting groups in India: Star-DEN, Zee-Turner, Sun18 and MSM Discovery. Star-DEN is a JV between Star group and DEN Networks that includes all Star channels, except for the sports channel and channels from other broadcasters like NDTV. Zee-Turner is a 74:26 joint venture between Zee Enterprises and Turner which includes all channels of Zee, except the sports channel and channels like Cartoon Network, HBO and Pogo from Turner.

Sun18, the most recent tie-up, between Sun group and Network18 group, distributes 33 channels, inclusive of all channels of the TV18 group, Sun Network and Disney. MSM Discovery, the fourth major broadcasting group, is a joint venture between Sony Entertainment Network and Discovery Communications. Also known as One Alliance, it distributes 18 channels, including all channels of Sony and Discovery in India.

In FY11, Star-DEN earned revenues of about Rs1,000 crore and Zee-Turner registered revenues of about Rs800 crore. "We view the coming together of the two largest broadcasters of the country as a critical development for the industry as a whole. We believe the joint entity will aid in driving addressability and digitization and improve the economics of the 'organized' industry in the longer term," IDFC says. "With the JV being a mere pass-through entity (retains 2%-3% commissions), the financial impact on Star-DEN and Zee-Turner will be limited in the near term and will be derived only over the longer term as the subscription pie increases."

The cable and satellite television market in India emerged in the 1990s and has since then seen strong growth, in terms of the growth of the number of subscribers from a mere 4 lakh in 1992 to around 9 crore today; a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35% over the last 18 years. With a share of roughly 40%, the television industry accounts for the largest share in the roughly Rs70,000 crore Indian entertainment and media industry, followed by print, film, radio and other media.

Currently, the television distribution network in India caters to around 140 million television homes, over 60% of these in the analog category, while the digital cable service is fed to a low 4.5 million television homes. There are around 50,000 LCOs and 1,000 MSOs, about 10 of these are major MSOs.

"We do not see the JV (between Star and Zee) disrupting the trade for organised MSOs like Hathway and DEN. Our sense is that the JV will work towards improving the profitability of the entire value chain by targeting the LCOs. Hence, we see a larger longer-term agenda in the formation of the JV and do not see any impact in terms of content cost for MSOs like Hathway and DEN," IDFC said.

The research report said, "The development (Star-Zee JV) is clearly positive for broadcasters and organised MSOs like DEN and Hathway, as addressability will underpin strong growth in subscription revenues and, thereby, profitability. Further, with DEN and Zee having a direct stake in the newly-formed entity, we believe they would be the biggest beneficiaries of this development among the listed players."
However, the venture could push up content costs for direct-to-home (DTH) operators. IDFC said, "With respect to DTH operators, however, where declaration levels are 100%, the JV would shift the pricing power to broadcasters (particularly Star and Zee). Thus, while DTH operators have enjoyed the upper hand, as broadcasters' revenues from DTH exceed that from cable, we believe the terms of the trade could change. As the newly-formed entity exercises pricing power, content costs for DTH operators could trend upwards. Having said that, our sense is that the impact on Zee Group's Dish TV and Star-owned Tata Sky would be limited."

"In terms of carriage revenues, we believe the formation of this JV would not have any material impact on the carriage revenues of the industry. Given the reach and scale of Star and Zee, we believe the two networks have a relatively lower payout of carriage," the report said.

There are about 550 TV channels in the country, out of which about 400 are active. There are 106 channels which still use the analog system to broadcast signals to 90 million homes. In addition, there are 300 TV channels ready to start broadcasting as and when they receive the licence. Due to a dearth of digital infrastructure, broadcasters are compelled to continue to use the analog system and pay more money as carriage fees.

Vivek Arora
1 decade ago
Hello Money life team,

Indeed a thoroughly researched story on Star-Zee JV. Me being a distribution executive in this industry, I agree that this JV will drive MSOs to look at Subscription revenues from their sub operstors rather than giving them free service to increase their area of operation to commnand more carriage from channels. But I think that as Zee - Star will control their carriage payouts, FTA channels will come under lot of pressure from MSOs to increase their payouts to retain the placements as they are only dependent on ad sales revenue. Intersting timed in distribution. Hope this is for good. Vivek Arora
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