MUMBAI: The era of India being a country that lags behind the more developed nations is gone. Indian DTH operators in the country are waking up, ancticipating future desires of Indian TV viewers. Which is why one of the oldest and largest DTH operators Tata Sky, is keeping itself and its subscribers up to date with the introduction of its 4k Ultra HD service.
The first quarter of 2015 will see Tata Sky roll out its set top boxes (STBs) for its 4k Ultra HD service. The STBs are being made by Technicolor and are based on the high efficiency video coding (HEVC) format that 4k uses the world over. However, prices of the STB are not yet known as the DTH operator wants to reveal it closer to the commercial launch date.
At a demonstration event in Mumbai, Tata Sky along with Sony Six unveiled the 4k UHD service with a live uninterrupted broadcast of the France versus Germany FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter final. The FIFA 4k signal rights had been bought by Sony Six while the cost of acquisition and transmission was split 50:50 by the broadcaster and the operator. The telecast took place live via satellite transmission.
Indiantelevision.com readers will note that Videocon d2h had previewed its 4K service on 3 July 2014 too, a day before Tata Sky..
Even though most industry professionals claim that it is too early to launch 4k Ultra HD in India, Tata Sky chief commercial officer Vikram Mehra feels otherwise. “When we launched HD in 2010, people doubted us saying it won’t work. As you keep enhancing TV experience, the viewer will appreciate it. So, Ultra HD is our endeavour in that area. A technology becomes popular when mainline pay-TV adopts it.”
Mehra feels that movies and sports will be the initial drivers for 4k technology and talks with broadcasters have already commenced. In three to four years, he expects it to be the way of life for most Indian TV viewers. Even though currently there is a lack of 4K content, he feels that it isn’t too far away. “We will make a product that makes sense to the customer. Customers will not buy STBs to adorn their homes. They will buy it for content,” he says.
Sony Six business head Prasana Krishnan feels that more sporting events should be produced in 4K soon, probably in the next year or so. “4K is the future of broadcasting, specially sports. We saw technology move from SD to HD and now HD has become standard. 4K is next,” he says. Krishnan is aware that a full-fledged 4K channel can’t be expected very soon. Big sporting events will have 4K production on crucial days such as the finals, while the run up matches will be in HD and SD.
The 4K screening of the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter finals that took place in Mumbai yesterday, 4 July saw the Sony Six logo being superimposed on the FIFA feed on an 84 inch Sony television set that is soon to be launched in India and across the world. 4K screens give four times the clarity as compared to an HD feed.
Mehra was not willing to venture any guesstimates about how much uptake the Tata Sky 4K service will have when it launches next year as he feels making futuristic statements is of no use. However, the fact that the DTH operator is confident about its prospects is clear from the contract that it has signed with Technicolor, according to which deliveries of 4K set top boxes in "volume" are expected to commence in early 2015.
Adds Mehra: "We started active service in 2007 and today we have 2.9million people paying Rs 45 each for them. Close to 65 per cent of our STBs sold today are HD. This from our total subscriber base of 13.5 million." It is pertinent to note that Tata Sky, since late last year, has stopped buying any more SD boxes.