Tata Sky on track for one million subscribers, unveils interactive edutainment service for kids

MUMBAI: Tata Sky Ltd. is putting together a product offering that would help it ramp up one million subscribers in the first year of operations. The latest in this effort: a new interactive service, Active Wizkids, aimed at kids in the age group between 3-6 years.

"We are enhancing our product offering virtually every week with more channels and functionality," says Tata Sky managing director and CEO Vikram Kaushik.

The result: Tata Sky has crossed 100,000 subscribers within the first 15 days of launch and almost 30 per cent of these subscribers are from rural areas.

"Our service is on track to reach one million subscribers by the end of the first year," says Kaushik.

Kaushik expects the Zee-Turner channels to come on board soon as the dispute is up for final hearing in a Delhi court next week. The DTH service provider is also in talks with Sun TV, the most popular network in the southern states, but no commercial agreement is expected soon. "We gave them a proposal and are in negotiations with them. But a deal is still far away," says Kaushik.

Tata Sky is currently offering 75 channels and eight interactive services at the introductory price of Rs 200 a month. "We may look at new pricing later. But for a consumer who takes our service, the introductory offer is at least for four months," says Kaushik.

For Active Wizkids, Tata Sky has partnered with IL&FS and the product was developed after a year of research. The aim is to make learning an entertaining activity for children, through games, audio instructions and animated mascots. These games encompass a variety of subjects ranging from mathematics to english and general knowledge. It seeks to be applicable to children's differential learning styles, to hone their basic learning skills.

Tata Sky claims Active Wizkids to be a first of its kind interactive edutainment service in the world that would enhance a child's classroom learning through entertaining, yet educational games.

Developed by an in-house team at Tata Sky, the service has four sections called Beginners, Juniors, Seniors and Happy Times, attempting to make it as age, time and activity appropriate. The television-based service will be refreshed on a daily basis to avoid monotony and is supported by four friendly mascots, each representing a specific learning style. Jimbo the baby elephant, represents listening, the Busy rat represents doing, Spiky, the teenage alligator, represents looking or observing and Hi Ho, the donkey with his big muscles, represents playing.

In connection with this, another child centric service available on Tata Sky's platform is the Parental Control service which allows parents to regulate what their children watch on television. The Parental Control service not only allows an entire channel to be blocked out, but also allows blocking of movies based on parental ratings across channels, reiterating Tata Sky's commitment to transferring control and convenience into the hands of consumers.

The DTH service has 11 localized language options. However, Active Wizkids is presented in English. Explaining the rationale behind using this medium of communication, Kaushik says, "We have observed that parents are keen to have the basic education of their kids in English. Our focus is on learning of alphabets and numbers. Though we are initially aiming at the 3-6 year olds, we will expand this age category in future," says Kaushik.

Tata Sky has strengthened its distribution network to cover 3200 towns and cities, with 12,500 dealers across the country. The service is backed up by three call centres in Pune, Hyderabad and Chandigarh which receive about 10,000 calls a day.

So how does Kaushik view the battle between cable TV and DTH? "There will be a restructuring in TV distribution. Going forward, DTH and cable will co-exist. In the US, 70 per cent of the market is dominated by cable TV while in UK DTH enjoys 70-80 per cent of the slice," says Kaushik.

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