Television

STB, cable based computer entertainment beckons MSOs, cable operators

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MUMBAI: All TV and no play makes Jack a dull boy. That's a modern adage that Milestone Interactive Software Ltd (MISL) is hoping to cash in on. India's largest distributor and publisher of PC CD-ROM games and Sony's official partner for PlayStations in India, plans to offer games to kids and adults at home.

MISL chairman and CEO Jayant Sharma believes that the initiative like this will provide an alternative revenue stream to Indian cable operators in the post-CAS scenario.

Speaking to indiantelevision.com, Sharma revealed that his company has initiated talks with several cable operators and MSOs to convince them to capitalise on the huge opportunity that exists in the area of computer entertainment software and interactive computer video games for Indian homes.

Internationally, the concept of 'computer entertainment games' is being extended to cable and satellite (C&S) homes either through telephone/telecom networks, cable TV networks or through webstores in public which house the 'Plug and Play' consoles (like the Sony Playstation).

Globally, its is estimated that PC games constitute around 30 percent of the business and the remaining is accrued to console games including the PlayStation, Nintendo, and X-Box. However, the Indian population is still not attuned to this novel concept.

Sharma feels that Indian cable ops can play a major role in popularising the concept and taking it to the homes of the discerning Indian consumers. They can actually offer the 'games' on TV sets that will be connected to a PC or a set-top box, with a joystick thrown in.

Sharma claims: "India already has a huge base of 40 million C&S households with either a single or multiple TV sets. The cable operators will anyway be installing set-top boxes in the metros soon and they could offer additional services such as broadband, games on demand and video-conferencing on the same network. Ideally, we are targeting those cable operators who service the upper end of the market in Mumbai and Delhi. The entry costs can be anything between Rs 50 and Rs 100."

Home entertainment is almost 50 percent of the content offered in the developed markets. However, in India, the marketing effort will need to be targeted at encouraging upwardly mobile audiences to get hooked in. The models could vary as people sign up as monthly subscribers or pay individually for each game as and when they wish to play or visit public places to play the games.

Yahoo has already started a game channel which includes broadband and narrowband. Initially, Sharma has identified the children in the 8-18 years category and the 'young-at-hearts' in the 18-35 years age group as the primary TG.

"The children will definitely prefer to play games on their television sets rather than watch the programmes. This is a trend that is common abroad. It creates some kind of a passionate bonding amongst the children," he adds.

The technology also doesn't involve any major investment on the part of the cable operator or the consumer. Most of the computer games currently are in the narrowband as broadband has still not made its impact in a big way.

Additionally, a storage device such as a PC or a PlayStation device or set-top box with a memory of around 100 MB would be required. The storage device is required to ensure adequate memory for downloading the software and storing it on a temporary basis.

"Globally, the computer entertainment software and allied hardware industry is valued at $9 billion. I don't wish to use the term 'gaming' as it is widely misunderstood. In India, the industry is around Rs 400 million but growing at a fast pace. What is more significant is the fact that the 'gaming' business is the highest export revenue earner for the UK. India too can vie for a share of the global pie," Sharma points out.

"Even a base of 1 million subscribers would guarantee revenues in excess of Rs 1.2 billion if the subscription is priced at Rs 100/- per household. Three broadband infrastructure providers had stepped in as aggregators to partner MISL. However, this includes the broadband networks that need content to augment the services provided to consumers over the telecom networks," Sharma elaborates.

One hopes that MISL manages to hook the cable ops and the MSOs to 'gaming mania'.

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