Evolution of Television/DTH Industry in India

There has been explosion of growth in  television/DTH space in India. Thanks to digitization,industry is getting matured from being a monopoly,cable owned service  to satellite services providers (DTH – Direct To Home) that uses latest technologies to provide High Definition (HD) content and VOD (Video On Demand) services.

Source:Watblog

Market dynamics is India is pretty unique. Before even getting into genre , language gets the top priority in the way how content is distributed. This brings in a lot of challenges to both broadcasters and DTH with planning , content creation , packaging and pricing.

A sneak look into how things have evolved over last couple of years and how  customers have really got or lost  an edge with these latest developments.

Why new age TV rocks? 

1.Not at mercy of local cable provider

Long time back , you are stuck with your local service provider who decides to add channels or remove it based on their will and wish. Even in present scenario , this problem still exists but magnitude was not like before. Cable companies during the older days would always make us miss a cricket match or two before deciding to include the channel .

Worse is when there are times ,the cable provider does not have power back up at their end and hence service would be impacted.

Thanks to DTH , customers are in better control.Also there is no issue on coverage. Since there are no infrastructure cost viz cables to be laid etc associated with bringing service to a new area , it is easier to avail the service from any part of the country.

2.Growth of High Definition Content and amazing sound

Although High Definition has still not caught main stream , people have started appreciating  HD content and major tv channels too seem to be moving towards attracting viewers with high definition content. Fall in prices of LCD and LED TV’s coupled little or no ad breaks have tempted customers to go for HD. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound has also elevated the tv watching experience to a great extent.Broadcasting sporting events and blockbuster new movies that boost shooting in high quality cameras resulting in amazing color reproduction and clarity have helped the cause to a great extent.

3.Advent and Flexibility of DVR Digital Video Recorder

One of main problem most people have is that while they pay a lot for monthly tv subscription , they tend to get very little time to watch tv. This is where DVR  has come to the rescue , it has provided flexibility of recording content and watching it during free time  and people have to no longer bear the advertisement and watch a single movie for 4 hours.

DVR with some smart features like pause/rewind feature , scheduling recording of recurring programs in a single shot and ability to schedule remote recording through website or mobile has helped in adoption to a great extent.

4.Video on Demand and Live TV on Mobile

Video on Demand and Live TV on mobile are new features being explored by service providers but problem is with slow broad band adoption/data coverage and pricey plans that does not help the cause. There are also some talks happening between DTH providers and Google for providing youtube through their services. It should be interesting to see how they evolve.

5.Onset of Premium Pay TV channels

Although most of the channels in India are pay channels , the subscription fee is very less. Also since the competition is pretty high and there is great demographic division based on languages , most TV channels do not provide any good quality programming content. TV shows from west in English have niche audience and most shows telecasted here are delayed by good 6 months. This made over curious group  to download their favorite shows and watch it before comes to India.As a result , the true potential for overseas content has remain untapped for long.

Star World Premiere is first channel to take this step of bringing best of TV shows from America to India broadcast ed within 24 hours of its premiere in America. This kind of subscription services involves high cost and contrary to other channels which are bundled together with packages , this is stand alone channel and subscription cost are rather high. It should be interesting to see how people welcome this idea. HBO has earlier tried for subscription model by providing two channels for original programming content and new movies and has met with limited adoption only. Still people in India are very much used to idea of paying for package rather than channel based. This mindset change of paying for good quality,original programming will take some time for people but I hope the trends catches up quickly so that we can look forward to quality content.

6.High Quality Original Programming

Most of TV broad cast content seems to fall into one of categories: Daily soaps that attract house wife and elderly people or Reality Shows /News Related content that attract young audiences or Games/Movies /Music genre that attract different set of audiences based on their preferences.

For a nation that relies on producing record number of movies every year, TV shows have not targeted the young generation who rely on watching high quality shows made in west. 24,the much acclaimed English series is being remade in Hindi with some great production values and also stellar star cast from Bollywood. This is first time , TV shows are made in seasonal format with defined episodes , big budget to attract audience. The success of shows like this can pave for more experimentation and differentiation by broadcasters and also help to build niche audience.

 Why it sucks ?

1.Bandwidth issues 

This problem is unique to India because of number of regional languages to which service providers has to cater. There are nearly 350 channels in total and due to bandwidth constraints ,growth of HD channels have been limited so far since they take more space.

2. Poor Channel Packaging and pricey a la-carte channels

DTH providers have really some good MBA in place who come up with some pretty smart channel packages that you eventually end up paying a lot for channels that you rarely or never watch. This bundle offer paves way for lot of low quality channels getting included into  total channel count. Even though there is a regulation that a la carte option should be provided by all service providers , they are priced in such a way that it does not make sense to pay 300 or 400 Rs for 10-15 channels when one can pay 100 Rs more to get many or all channels.

3.Content unavailability , censorship and internet piracy

Although premium channels are addressing this issue of non availability of content to some extent , still there is content which are available only in internet. Since broadband is order of day in most of urban household ,people have started downloading or go online to view the content they like that is not broadcast ed through any tv channel. This means they can literally get hold off any content and watch it easily in their time of convenience.

Added are censorship problems for niche content from the west  that are laid down in country that it takes away the whole soul of content in many cases and hence people like to watch it uncensored. Since internet costs are pretty high added to inflexible subscription costs , people are starting to ignore cable or DTH as a whole and go online fully to watch their favorite content. If this trend continues , this can lead to an exodus of people who go online or wait for online streaming options like Netflix.

4. Mandatory Subtitles on English channels 

All the English channels both General Entertainment , Movies and Infotainment channels provide subtitles . Though it is a good thing for people who are not able to follow , it is a problem for others as it  intrudes the whole viewing experience. So far no DTH has provided an option to turn on or off the subtitles and this proves to be a damp squib for people who again turn to internet for watching without any subtitles.

5.Too little content but more number of channels 

If you think about it , there are around 10 English movie channels but number of new movies that premieres in each channel is very less. Each channel get access to some new titles released and then try to re-run the same content over and over again .

So what it means to a viewer is that , to watch all movies , one needs to subscribe to all these channels when there is no consistent quality content. Also some channels introduce new sister channels and premiere some content exclusively there by minting more money for some content. For eg. Star Movies has very few   movie titles to telecast but they come up with one more channel called Star Movies Action and premiere one or two movies here as well which should have ideally been premiered in Star Movies.

This type of practice is now prevalent with other channel network as well. Same movie would be telecast in different channels from same network at various time slots there by making forcing customers to buy all these channels. As a customer , one slowly realizes how they are being duped into plumping more money for same content .

6. DTH Channel Exclusivity

This is again one of the issues with DTH providers in collation with channel network try to remain exclusive to that particular DTH alone which cause further fragmentation. Tata Sky has exclusivity to Star channels at least for initial days and so is Dish TV with Zee Channels ,Sun DTH with its Sun Network HD channels. This again limits the potential for end customers to enjoy all the content available with various services.

7.Service Disruption due to Rain

There used to a running gag around Tata Sky. To know whether it is raining or not , do not check through windows but switch on Tata Sky. If it is working , then there is no rain. The dish antennas used by DTH providers to receive signals  brings down service even when there is little rain. Infrastructure is not yet evolved to make sure rain does not impact the dish and signal quality. Normal cable does not have this issue and DTH is at a disadvantage in this very aspect.

Why DTH may be future ?

With increased ticket prices at multiplexes and high parking charges coupled makes frequent getaway to movies a very pricey proposition to people especially families with kids . HD content with Dolby Digital Surround Sound makes for superb combination for those who would like to enjoy content from the comfort of their home when new block busters are premiered within 50 days of theatrical release. There is big race that is happening among broadcasters and DTH providers to take control of your free time – coveted TV spot with intelligent programming , packaging and distribution to wow the viewers.

Why it may not be ?

Online streaming websites have not been proven successful so far in India thanks to costly broadband plans and not so widespread adoption of broadband through the country. Until this sparse internet availability , DTH will continue to enjoy without much competition.Most of content available in TV is available in youtube for free and all these content are uploaded by broadcasters itself to cover international audiences. But once online streaming websites come into picture with great content selection, it will be a tough time for DTH which need to have strong reason as to why end customer has to pay so much for channel packages or bundles that they hardly watch.

Exciting times ahead !

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6 thoughts on “Evolution of Television/DTH Industry in India

  1. thanks Avinash, am glad you enjoyed reading it :) Yes, DTH has a long way to go and online streaming service will give some tough competition very soon !

  2. DTH is evolving, but online streaming is catching up so quickly. One way I see DTH to delay the inevitable is to make more interactive, especially the News and Sports channels, Live channels to be more specific.
    I love to watch cricket in TV for video and audio quality, while I browse Cricinfo for the match statistics and people comments.
    Likewise while watching TimesNow, let the live channel be live, I need an option to pull out regional news, sports/entertainment news, need to have an option to pick a news from the ticker to read/listen in detail.
    With DTH, I am pretty sure this is possible along with the respective channels.. It will be awesome, if this happens.

    • Good thoughts out there. Interactive tv is a cool idea but am not sure how easy or feasible is it to implement. Even those features have not yet come in Apple or Google OS as such. Another problem in implementing them is how you control them. Remote is a clumsy interface to work with. However second screen apps are being experimented at channel level. Eg NDTV car and bike show does that. Airtel even tried with ordering pizza through their digital TV but not sure how much of a success it was.

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