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Indian Broadcasting, Technology and Copyright Industries

35 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2012  

Carter Eltzroth

Bhamati Viswanathan


Date Written: June 30, 2008


This is a report on the impact of new technologies on Indian broadcasting and its creative community. Indian broadcasting is growing and in full transition to providing more and more varied services to the Indian public. In a nutshell, there are some 120 million television households; of these 70 million are cable households. There is a growing number of satellite direct-to-home subscribers, say 5 million plus, across a number of platforms, soon to be seven. (In the US: two platforms). The balance of the population receives its television by over-the-air transmission (confined today to the services of Doordarshan, the state-owned broadcaster).

India has a population of over one billion or some 250 million households. There is clearly an underserved public for TV services, but most of these could be very poor, unable to afford a television receiver and without access to a steady supply of electricity. However, new technologies (such as mobile broadcasting) and innovative commercial practices could bring services to new audiences.

There are 70,000 cable operators in India. This is a market which has grown up somewhat outside of regulation. Its informal character is underscored by the cash subscriptions it collects monthly from subscribers and the lack of transparency in its means of financing. The number of cable operators suggests that it is a sector ripe for consolidation. But the lack of transparency, the evolving regulatory framework, and the comparatively low monthly subscription ($5-8/month) suggest that partners from the formal sector, including foreign investors, will not in the short term be interested in assisting in that transition.

Our report examines earlier approaches to Indian broadcasting and provides an overview of Indian broadcasting markets and regulation, including copyright. It then reviews at greater length the sector, vigorous today in India, of cable networks and the nascent technology of mobile broadcasting.

Cable distribution of television content is a sector that defies easy characterisation. It shares many of the characteristics of the informal economy. It is prone to “under-declaration” of its subscriber numbers. As a result, its payments to broadcasters (and then on to content providers), just as its payments to tax authorities, do not match its reach as the leading distribution means in India. This is a market distortion which has knock-on effects elsewhere in broadcasting.

Mobile broadcasting is undergoing trials by Doordarshan and has recently been the subject of detailed recommendations by a broadcasting regulator. Within the proper framework, this technology could provide broadcast services to established and new audiences, offering the prospect of more platforms, measurable usage, and greater revenues to content creators.

For the content industry, both B- and H-ollywood, the news today is quite positive with the apparent constant need to obtain premium and other content to file the multiplicity of channels and platforms. Over time, the number of satellite services may consolidate, reducing competition for content (leading to renegotiation of existing agreements). At the same time, the regularisation of the cable industry – the end to under-declaration – may increase revenues to broadcasters and the creative community.

Keywords: Indian broadcasting, television, TV, Bollywood, IPR, copyright, satellite, cable, DTH, digital video broadcasting, DVB, content creation, development, mobile broadcasting, audiovisual regulation

Suggested Citation

Eltzroth, Carter and Viswanathan, Bhamati, Indian Broadcasting, Technology and Copyright Industries (June 30, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Carter Eltzroth (Contact Author) ( email )

PO Box 25801
Washington, DC 20027
United States

Bhamati Viswanathan

Independent ( email )

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