Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DTH snatching share of IPTV interactive services

With an already good consumer base on the DTH platform, players spice it up further with value-added services. The much-touted internet protocol TV, or IPTV, was expected to arouse enough interest among consumers who wanted interactive services like videos on demand, online movie ticket booking, ability to record, pause and schedule recordings of TV shows. However, consumers like Kaustubh Deshpande from Mumbai are getting impatient. Even six months after using the much-hyped IPTV service in Mumbai, he isn’t too kicked about it — part of his angst arose from the teething troubles he had to endure when he got an IPTV connection.

Meanwhile, his friends alerted him to Bharti-Airtel’s launch of interactive services like ordering a pizza via a set-top-box. From selecting the pizza topping to deciding the side orders, Airtel digital TV subscribers can use their TV sets as a menu card. The service, which has been launched in New Delhi and will be soon replicated countrywide, adds a new chapter to interactive services on the DTH platform. Kaustubh is now sold on this service. Indeed! Players like Airtel are not relying solely on IPTV for interactivity any longer. Not willing to take chances, they are directing some of the value-added services (VAS) to Direct-to-home (DTH) users too.

And why not? IPTV has made a small beginning. But the problem, say analysts, is that IPTV providers are still testing the platform. Despite IPTV being launched as early as 2006, there were just about 30,000 households (0.03 million) in 2008. This number is set to touch 2.5 lakh households in 2009, as per the 2009 KPMG-Ficci study, while the DTH households will touch a whopping 16 million in 2009. Moreover, the Direct-to-home (DTH) market is all set to reach 28 million subscribers in the next four years, far exceeding internet protocol television (IPTV) numbers that are expected to touch a mere 4 million subscribers over the same period. Ajay Puri, director & CEO (DTH), Bharti Airtel believes that interactivity on DTH can be game-changing for the service providers. He describes the latest interactive service from Bharti Airtel which allows users to “browse through various pizzas on offer, and place your orders as well. All you have to do is select what you want to eat and send an SMS to the nearest Pizza Hut contact centre.”

Dominant DTH provider Dish TV, too, is luring consumers with its 25 feature film collection for children. Movies like Ghatotkacha, Aladdin Ka Chirag, Krishna, Prahlad, Prithviraj Chauhan, Taare Zameen Par and The Pied Piper of Hamlin, will be available on the movie-on-demand (MoD) platform by Dish TV. The films are priced at just Rs 25 per movie. MoD, which was the most-touted feature of the IPTV platform, is being replicated by DTH players too. Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV says, “Globally, niche content acts as the core differentiator but in India the regulator has ruled out content differentiation, so value-added services (VAS) become the differentiator.” Families spend up to 20 per cent of their TV viewing time on such interactive services on Dish TV, says Kapoor. The gaming segment on the DTH platform is yet another area that has adopted interactivity. Recently, Microsoft launched an advertising campaign for its gaming console Microsoft Xbox 360 Arcade on the gaming portal of Dish TV in order to reach out to 25 million potential gamers across India. Alok Shende, principal analyst, Ascendia Consulting, opines that “DTH as a platform allows building business models around it. Almost the similar way as IPTV. Its just that in IPTV you have triple play — voice, broadband and entertainment.” He claims that with IPTV market in a limbo, it is natural for service providers to focus on interactive value-added services.

However, telcos admit that the IPTV story cannot be written off in a hurry. Players like Reliance, Aksh or Airtel remain committed to their IPTV offerings. And so does Airtel, which still touts its IPTV interactive services that include online movie ticket booking, ability to record, pause and schedule recordings of TV shows for up to 7 days and interactive movie-on-demand services with options to choose from hundreds of movies. Gradually, though, these offerings are becoming available on the DTH platform too.

- Business Standard

3 comments: said...

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