Television

Star readying plans for interactive televiewing

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NEW DELHI: The Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star India appears to be reviving its plans of getting into interactive televiewing. As a small step towards this, it has tied up with various cellular service providers across the country to use the medium of SMS (short messaging system) for various programmes and contests across the Star bouquet of channels. .

Confirming the development, telecom industry sources said that Star has finalised agreements in this regard with cell service providers like Hutch, RPG, BPL and Spice Telecom. Negotiations are on with the likes of Bharti Cellular Ltd, which operates cellular services in various cities under the Airtel brand.

"The revenue that is generated out of sending SMSs by cell phone users for participating in contests and programmes on Star channels or accessing any other info will be shared between the service provider, which will keep the majority of the revenue, and Star," a senior executive of a telecom company said.

Star India's parent company, the Hong- Kong-based Star Group Ltd, will launch a full-fledged interactive TV service in Taiwan later this year. (See related report: Star-backed network launching interactive service in Taiwan)

Though this step towards involving the viewer with the on-air programme has been started in a small way by Star India through a programme on Channel V where jokes can be sent via SMS, a full-fledged business plan is still being worked out. Even last Friday, when Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) made its re-appearance on Star Plus (the best of series), Star India had tried out the mechanism of involving viewers through SMS, but the system had developed a technical snag.

Star India's future plans involving interactive TV, to be unfolded over a period of time, includes providing TV guides across channels, participation (registration and voting) in contests through SMS, getting entertainment-related news, jokes and trivia. As per the broad business game plan, forecasts on zodiac, birthdays and "panchang" (Hindu calendar) and downloads of ring tones and logos too, will form part of interactive televiewing at a later stage.

The telecom industry sources said that the phased rollout of interactive televiewing involving mobile phone users was supposed to have started in July through Star's universal access number STAR-7827. The marketing of these services is to be done by Star on a revenue sharing basis with the cell service provider.

What is the mega opportunity? To provoke instant interaction between Star and the viewer through mobile telecommunication, which will span across all the Star channels and platforms, including Radio City (the FM radio brand name) in various cities and its website indya.com.

The idea is to cover the entire country through SMS and intelligent voice recording (IVR) and provide high entertainment value of the content.

Cellnext, which is the technical partner of Star, in this venture, according to sources also feels that network traffic over SMS can graduate to other such related technologies and will be driven by mass market/entertainment content.

The plan is also to use applications, which will be user friendly and during the next phase of this venture usage of Roman Hindi and other regional languages is also being looked into to broadbase participation.

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