BT Broadcast, Dish TV in distribution deal

MUMBAI: BT Broadcast Services (BTBS), the broadcast and media solutions arm of British Telecom (BT), announced on Tuesday that it had signed a distribution agreement with ASC Enterprise's direct-to-home (DTH) platform Dish TV.

The agreement enables European and US broadcasters to, for the first time, tap into India by jointly marketing the DTH capacity on Dish TV. Besides the Indian subcontinent, this agreement also applies to other English speaking markets in the Asia Pacific.

Commenting on the other implications of the tie-up, Essel Group additional vice-chairman Jawahar Goel said, "The deal with BT was signed a couple of weeks ago and will facilitate the playout of the Zee Channels in the UK and the American markets."

BT's towers would be used by Zee to send its eight-odd channels on the various platforms in the US and UK. In the UK, Zee channels are also available on the BSkyB platform.

Information available with indicates that as part of the package deal, on an average, Zee would be paying BT about Rs 700,000 per channel per month to be taken to the US and the UK markets.

Apart from providing teleport services, BT has also offered Zee that it can bring non-Indian channels to be added to the Dish TV platform, which has been agreed upon to "gauge the performance of BT," a senior executive of Essel Group said.

Both BTBS and ASC Enterprises will market an end-to-end service that includes:

* 3Mb/s (the Dish TV standard) of capacity on the platform;

* encryption using Conax conditional access;

* a Dish TV EPG listing;

* 24 hour signal quality monitoring from BT Tower;

* full resilience, with redundant equipment automatically switched into service within 1 second of any failure;

* contribution of signals from Europe and the US to India, Australia and other English speaking markets in Asia;

* access to Dish TV subscriber community - currently standing at 150,000 and forecast to grow to 1.5 million by end-2004*;

* ultra-short lead-time - the service can be provided within 1 month of contract signature;

* subscriber management for premium channels that charge for the content provided.

In addition, there are a number of premium services, including standards conversion between NTSC and PAL, time shifting to allow repurposing of content between time zones and seamless bit rate conversion.

BT Broadcast Services CEO Mark Smith said, "In the past, there have been significant barriers to entry for European and US broadcasters to the exciting and rapidly growing Indian, Australian and Asian English speaking markets, and this new service makes it much easier, and more cost effective, for this to be achieved."

"BTBS and ASC Enterprises TV have consolidated our international broadcasting capabilities to create a powerful channel to this key global market," Smith added.

ASC Enterprises director Amitabh Kumar said, "ASC Enterprises is very pleased to be at the forefront of bringing US and European TV channels to satellite TV viewers on the Indian Subcontinent. Our joint offering with BT Broadcast Services presents a fantastic opportunity for global broadcasters to transmit their channels to a new potential audience of one billion people."

Set top box/dish packages will be sold to consumers through Zee TV's 10,000 resellers, and revenue collection and subscriber management will be handled by Zee TV's sister company, ASCEL. According to the Zee Group's current forecasts, Dish TV's subscriber base, which currently stands at 150,000, will grow to 1.5 million by end-2004.

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