Updated - 08:46 PM
MUMBAI: It has built up its reputation as arguably the fastest growing DTH operator in India, apart from delivering snazzy features to subscribers. Now Videocon d2h has added another feather to its cap by becoming the first player in this space to announce its Ultra HD or 4K TV service. Readers should know that the TV picture gets more colour, more depth, and more details once viewed on a 4K TV set.
With nearly 11 million and growing subscribers, Videocon d2h MD Saurabh Dhoot is pretty proud of the company's achievement when he says: “We wanted to be the first company to deliver 4k ultra HD service to India.”
He is quite sure that demand for its service is bound to increase in India, even though Indian TV viewers are just about beginning to take a fancy to plain old vanilla HD television services. This apart, he is not perturbed by the fact that Indian broadcasters and producers are not really thinking 4K as yet and are ill-equipped to produce even if they decide to do so. Says the Dhoot family scion: “You have to preempt, at times. We come with the thought process of surprising customers and delivering what they are about to ask for before they ask for it.”
Indeed, the Videocon group is involved in the entire pipeline of television - right from TV sets to self-made STBs to its own DTH service (Ok so it has left TV channels and content creation to other players). Hence, it has been able to price the Ultra HD box at Rs 10,000 when production starts at its factories. Discussions are on with Broadcom for chips and semiconductors while Cisco is likely to provide the conditional access. Dhoot expects the price of the box to fall to Rs 4000 or Rs 5000 depending on the demand and production scale.
The STB works on a technology called high efficiency video compression (HEVC) which is 50 per cent more efficient than the MPEG-4 technology used in HD boxes. “The main investment is in transponder space. To overcome this, we have HEVC technology or else it would be a criminal waste of satellite space,” points out Videocon d2h CEO Anil Khera.
Official roll out of the service will be around October or November 2014, during Diwali when the company expects sale of 4K TV sets to pick up. “Ultra HD TV sales have picked up sharply this year as compared to last year when they were negligible. Over Diwali, we expect ultra HD sales to pick up more,” explains Dhoot.
While travel and lifestyle, sports and movies are the expected first lot of genres to experiment with 4K technology, it will tie up its first market promotion with a good 4K event. Talks with broadcasters have already commenced for the same, one of the first being Travelxp.
Dhoot is quite clear that Ultra HD will be a ‘very very premium service’ constituting a single digit per cent of its entire subscriber base. The initial offering to customers will be a single Ultra HD channel, broadcast from its Noida headend, which will carry content from any producer or broadcaster which wants to show case its Ultra HD content.
Eight million pixels versus two million pixels of HD TV is the clarity that this service along with TV sets of size 65 inches and above will provide. 4K UHD TVs are capable of delivering four times the picture resolution of 1080p full HD. It will also provide a cloud based recording facility.
The first target audience will be in the metros and their own existing subscribers, even though Dhoot stresses that it isn’t necessary that only cities consume expensive TVs. As and when events come along, communication will be given to subscribers through its channel page. Khera says that 30 per cent of new acquisitions request for an HD box. These will be the likely target audiences.
Though raising average revenue per user (ARPU) plays a significant role in increased revenues, ultra HD service will take a while to give a significant contribution given that initially it will only be event based such as finals of key sporting events or big movies. “HD subscribers have played a big role in incrementing revenue and ARPUs. The investment in ultra HD is made for a very long time. Once it clicks, the recovery is very fast,” says Dhoot.
On the sideline, it has also undergone a re-christening. Bharat Business Channel is now officially Videocon d2h. The main prompt for this was that the company’s identification was its service and for better communication practices, the name needed a change.
Khera is aware that the biggest issue with recording in 4K is the storage space as well as post production. He is hopeful that broadcasters and producers will test the Ultra HD waters.