It was a challenge to introduce digital TV—Direct to Home (DTH)—in Nepal 10 years ago. People were then familiar only with analogue TV and it was hard for us to make them understand digital TV. But there has been a huge change, as 95 percent of the system has been digitalized. This means most people now have a good viewing experience. Along with developments in science and technology, we have a growing scope in digital platforms. As the market grows, we have more opportunities. According to one data, over 3.5 million digital TV setup boxes have been distributed in Nepal. But there is still a large number of households that do not use digital TV services or any kind of digital platform. One reason could be poverty, another could be the penetration of Indian DTH in the Tarai belt.
A major challenge for us is that TV content is costly. Most of the contents are from India. The analogue contents used to be cheaper. But when they went digital, rates and taxes shot up. The only solution was to hike the prices of our services. So the overall condition of the industry is somewhat weak.
Another challenge is people’s changing TV habits. These days fewer people are watching TV due to easy availability of smartphones and internet. The number of hours a person spends watching TV has greatly reduced.
At present, we have an issue over ‘clean-feed’ which the government has decided to implement from October 23. Once it comes into force, the cost of content will rise further. It will also decrease the number of channels and subscribers, threatening the entire digital TV service providers.
With problems in Nepal, Indian DTH may come to displace Nepali DTH, at least in the Tarai belt. Although it is illegal, many households in bordering towns have subscribed to Indian DTH. This may impact advertisement revenue in Nepal. When the number of viewers go down, why would businesses spend money on TV ads?
We already hear that television stations are losing advertisement revenue. Concerned authorities are mistaken that clean-feed policy will allow for total control over ads. This will not only harm the service operators but also the entire advertising sector. Without ads, no advertising agency can survive.
We have expressed our worries, but have gotten no satisfactory response. Our industry was not consulted even while drafting the Advertisement Regulation Bill. After the implementation of clean-feed, content providers will definitely charge us more. To recover our losses, we will be left with the only option of passing on the additional cost to our subscribers.
Likewise, there are some channels whose business depends entirely on ads. Sports, news, and religious channels will have hard time after the implementation of clean-feed. We may not be able to broadcast them. In my view, even the government is unsure of the motive behind clean-feed.
As defined in the bill, clean-feed is a provision to prevent ads in foreign channels. In global practice, making foreign channels ad-free is uncommon. It is a regressive step brought without proper study. Experts from our industry should have been consulted before drafting the provision. If the government is serious about clean-feed, it should not be limited to digital TV. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook also include foreign advertisements. What do we do with them?
In order to deal with the clean-feed policy, we have started around 15 channels through our subsidiaries. Other service providers have also started doing so. They will be allowed to run local ads. Likewise, we will soon come up with our own internet services. But still, there are challenges.
We appeal to the government to revise the clean-feed policy and introduce a provision for local ads on it, otherwise it will lead to the ruin of the digital TV industry O