Uday Shankar hopes telecom tariff hike not to roil data intake

On the heels of telecom tariffs going up steeply, Star India chairman Uday Shankar on Tuesday expressed hope data prices will not become “unaffordable” and that content consumption will keep growing.

Beginning this month, the three private telcos hiked tariffs for prepaid customers, which constitute a large majority of over 95 percent, by a steep 40 percent after holding the rates at rock bottom levels for nearly five 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 confidently.

He was speaking to reporters after launching the consumption trends on its digital platform ‘Hotstar‘, which revealed smaller centres are driving consumption on the back of cheap data.

Meanwhile, the entertainment industry veteran who started off as a journalist, also went public with his disappointment with the new TV audience measurement under Broadcast Audience Research Council.

“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,” he 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.

He 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, data on Hotstar viewership shared by the network claimed that there were days when daily viewership touched 300 million during a cricket matches, and on average above 200 million on other days. The app downloads has touched 400 million.

As much as 63 percent of Hotstar users are from non- metros and 45 percent of all users are women.

Shankar defended his pricing model of offering some content free and others for a fee saying this has worked well, and conceded that they had not planned for such a high consumption of data as he expects three-fourths of data consumpiton will be through mobiles soon.


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