Star India’s Uday Shankar Hopes Telecom Tariff Hikes Won’t Hurt Data Consumption In India
Close on the heels of steep telecom tariff hikes, Star India Pvt. Ltd.’s Chairman Uday Shankar on Tuesday expressed hope that data prices will not become "unaffordable" and that content consumption will keep growing.
India’s three largest private telecom operators, Bharti Airtel Ltd., Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd., raised tariffs by 40 percent for their prepaid customers, after holding the rates at rock-bottom levels for almost four years.
The move can help the bleeding operators to some extent in shoring up revenue.
"Data prices have come down from historical levels—from a couple of dollars per GB to barely 2-3 cents a GB now. It is not going to go back to an unaffordable level," Shankar said on the sidelines of an event where he announced the consumption trends for Hotstar—the digital platform of Star India.
He also expressed disappointment with the new TV audience metrics under Broadcast Audience Research Council, or BARC. "One big limitation in the present measurement system is that it is still not doing justice to what is happening now—how people are consuming," Shankar said, adding the issue is also about "data credibility".
Stating that the present data can be "extrapolated, interpolated and mutilated", he said there is a need for a better system that is scientific, robust and transparent.
The Star India chairman also hit out against branded content and in-film advertising, terming it as "crass commercialisation" which "taints" and "sullies" the experience. "There are better ways of making money. We have to be very active and dynamic in asset monetisation. But you don't have to sully the experience," he said.
Meanwhile, Star India claimed that Hotstar has an average daily viewership of more than 200 million, which spikes to 300 million during cricket matches. The Hotstar app has been downloaded as much as 400 million times. About 63 percent of the users are in non-metro cities and 45 percent are women.
Shankar defended Hotstar’s pricing model of offering some content free and others for a fee saying it has worked well, while conceding that Star India had not planned for such a high consumption of data. He believes three-fourths of data consumption in India will be through mobiles soon.