DTH

TV and the waves of change

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

Every now and then, men of great wisdom have paused and looked upon their world as it existed then and made one of two pronouncements; condemning emerging technology to the realm of the ‘useless‘ or declaring mankind‘s attainment of all that had to be attained, the peak of technological advancement by the human race.

In 1977, Ken Olson, Founder President of Digital Equipment Corp said, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home". There is no evidence that people want to use these things," said the San Francisco Examiner in 1984 on an experimental pointing device called ‘the mouse‘.

In circa 1991, cable TV arrived in our homes, and it opened up a whole new wonderland to the ‘Desi Alices‘. Most condemned it to the useless. Who needs 24-hours television? Why pay for this when a simple antenna gets us the TV we need, for free? My B&W television is happy with this signal quality…go talk to the Merc owners !!

They say time, tide - and technology - wait for no man. There indeed was a market and it swept away the cynics.

Dish antennas, big and small, from the terraces of multi-story apartment blocks to scores protruding defiant from the thatched roofs of slum clusters; unlike the mobile phone revolution, this is certainly not the invisible variety

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The world of entertainment continues to transform. Every day the Indian consumer is sensing a new whiff of entertainment experience and she loves it. Video on demand is becoming mass. Music has moved from cassettes to MP3. Betas are giving way to DVDs. LCD TV has reached the countryside and today we can boost of being one of the largest market globally of new TVs in both LCD and traditional colour television categories. Yes, if you have guessed what I am leading you up to then, you are right. The digital wave is fast spreading itself into our souls and its manifestation can be seen in the highly dynamic world of cable transmission too.



The statistics bear me out. Pay TV homes already at 74 million in 2007, are expected to expand to 115 million in 2012. Cable TV boom continues to grow at 5% and analogue mode continues to dominate with 60% of the market share. But, what each is looking up to is clearly the manner in which content will be experienced by the new age consumer. The teenager that was ‘content transmission through analogue cable distribution‘ has grown up into a strapping young digital adult and this experience is visible as much from inside as the outside of the house.

Dish antennas, big and small, from the terraces of multi-story apartment blocks to scores protruding defiant from the thatched roofs of slum clusters; unlike the mobile phone revolution, this is certainly not the invisible variety.

Of the various digital broadcast platforms, DTH is evidently most established and aggressive. The aggression of the existing five players is not just directed at grabbing share from each other, but as much driving an agenda of converting the unconverted. DTH sector at this time is touching the 21 million mark from 4 million in 2007, expected to be consumed by more than 100 million television viewers in 2009- 2010 from the glittering megapolis to the sleepy hinterland.

With all this data heavy information if anyone is thinking that this is the death of analogue cable. Well think again. Traditional cable TV is here to stay and thrive but will have to reinvent itself. It is not the one to easily relinquish its early-mover advantage and therefore is changing face too.



The introduction of CAS in the year 2006 set the tone for the ‘digitalization‘ of cable. With its partial introduction in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, most major MSOs put together have already seeded over 0.6 million set top boxes. The government plans to extend CAS to another 51 cities. The large outlay on the laying of fiber optic network and high quality amplifiers has already secured traditional cable TV‘s leadership position in the world of broadcast.

It is my hypothesis that more than the regulations themselves, the vociferous demand for better quality picture and inescapable competition from the sky will ensure rapid upgradation and relegation of ancient technology to the annals of history.

These, in all their magnitude and scale are still today‘s developments.

We are also the world‘s largest and the fastest growing mobile phone market. Voice anywhere drove the first phase of the telecom revolution. Will "content anywhere" drive the next?

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Knocking on the door is the new and energized Internet - now ready to carry television content with it to the millions of homes, it has already penetrated. The megacorps like Airtel, MTNL and BSNL have already started their IPTV services - Delhi and Mumbai first, and now at least 10 other towns. The game plan between the them is over 50 key cities in the next five years.

When broadband today reaches 4.38 million homes, you may not see this part of the digital revolution as prominently as you do in case of the dish antennas, but this is the silent wave of evolution ready for the sweep.

What the future holds in its lap is the next stage, when we will question the very need for a television set. Viewing content on mobile phone is doing the rounds. MTNL has rolled out 3G. Doordarshan in collaboration with Nokia, Spice Telecom, Qualcomm and Samsung are just some of the stakeholders expected to play a dominant role in nursing this new technology.

We are also the world‘s largest and the fastest growing mobile phone market. Voice anywhere drove the first phase of the telecom revolution. Will "content anywhere" drive the next? An answer that the future holds up its sleeve. Let‘s wait and watch!

(Dinesh Jain is the CEO of Zee Turner. The views and the opinions expressed are those of the writer. Indiantelevision.com may not necessarily subscribe to them wholly or partly.)

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