Asianet lines up plans to become a Southern regional MSO

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Rajan Raheja-controlled Asianet Satellite Communications, a dominant multi-system operator (MSO) in Kerala, has decided to grow into a regional player across the states of South India barring Tamil Nadu.

Asianet’s expansion outside Kerala will mean that it will have a parallel presence in some cities along with Hathway Cable & Datacom, which is also promoted by Raheja.

While Asianet is privately held by Raheja, Hathway Cable & Datacom is a listed entity with the promoter group owning 43.48 per cent. Private equity firm Providence is the other significant stake owner.

Hathway GTPL, a 50:50 JV between Hathway and GTPL, also has presence in several cities where Hathway exists.

Asianet has plans to expand in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana while keeping out of Tamil Nadu, where state-owned Arasu Cable dominates the market.

Asianet, which has been a strong player in Kerala since it commenced cable TV operations in 1993, expanded outside its home turf to Mangalore in Karnataka only in late 2014.

“With digitisation in Phases III and IV, we see a great opportunity to expand. We entered Karnataka and have digital signals going to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana from our headends in Kerala. There are several small operators who do not have the capital or the technology to digitise their networks,” Asianet Satellite Communications president and COO G Sankarnarayana told TelevisionPost.com.

In an earlier interaction, Sankarnarayana had said that Asianet would expand only to contiguous areas and the MSO would not be looking at Andhra Pradesh at all as it does not neighbour Kerala. “We have only decided on Mangalore at this stage. Even if we decide to go to other places in Karnataka, it will not be in those areas where Hathway is interested to have a presence,” he had said.

Raheja had strategically built Hathway as a pan-national MSO while confining Asianet to the state walls of Kerala.

That plan seems to be now changing. Asianet is looking to have half a million digital cable TV subscribers accumulated in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana due to the fallout of digital addressable system (DAS).

“We are a popular brand in Kerala and are deeply technology-driven. There are several independent MSOs who would want our support. We see good potential to mop up digital cable TV subscribers in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka,” Sankarnarayana said.

Asianet will look at various models to grow but has ruled out cash transactions to buy stake. “We could have multiple arrangements, including distributors or revenue-share models. But we will not do stake buys or have joint ventures,” said Sankarnarayana.

The MSO has started operations in certain cities in Karnataka like Chittradurga, Chimoga and Hubli. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, it is ready to deploy set-top boxes (STBs) once the high court vacates the stay on DAS Phase III implementation in these states.

“We have initially expanded to a few Karnataka cities like Chittradurga, Chimoga and Hubli. We expect more demand coming in. We are also entering Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and once the court lifts the stay order, deployment of STBs should start picking up. We are going to become a Southern player barring Tamil Nadu,” said Sankarnarayana.

Asianet has completed deploying STBs in DAS Phase III areas of Kerala. “We have been digitising on a voluntary basis since 2006 and have completed seeding STBs in Phase III. We are looking at expansion opportunities,” averred Sankarnarayana.

Will Asianet look at raising equity capital? “We have lined up debt and vendor financing. There is no need to dilute equity,” he clarified.

Asianet lines up plans to become a Southern regional MSO | TelevisionPost.com
 
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