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Is India ready to embrace 4K Ultra HD?

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CANNES: Ever since Star Sports broadcast a few important matches in 4K Ultra HD featuring the Indian team during the ICC Cricket World Cup earlier this year, a question hovering on many a lips is: Is India ready to embrace 4K Ultra HD?

On Day 1 of Mipcom 2015, a panel comprising Videocon d2h deputy CEO Rohit Jain, Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari, BT Media & Broadcast VP Mark Wilson-Dunn and Travel XP CEO Prashant Chothani precisely attempted to answer this very question.

Starting out, Jain gave an overview of how the direct to home industry has grown over the years and also how Videocon d2h has been a frontrunner in the recent past in terms of contributing heavily in helping India become a completely digitised country. “The last couple of years have seen some significant changes in how the television and broadcast ecosystem has evolved. India is among the fastest growing economics, and the biggest advantage is having an audience of 670 million under the age of 25 years,” he stated.

“India also has the second largest market for Pay TV connections with 150 million homes. There are challenges of over-the-top (OTT) players coming in globally and India in a big way, but that must not be a hindrance for innovators like us to continue bringing about the best changes and continue being thought leaders in our space,” he added.

Continuing the discussion and bringing a more global perspective to things, BT's Wilson-Dunn said, “I honestly believe that India is a very strong content oriented market and has the right ingredients to grow as a 4K consuming audience. With the recently successful test of waters with the Cricket World Cup in India, it has certainly given a lot of confidence to us that India and Asia as a whole is ready for 4K consumption.”

The panel agreed that sports would play a major role in establishing the future of 4K as well along with other live events and movies. “We are currently investing heavily in creating only 4K content and are confident that within the next two years, 4K will be huge in India,” said a confident Chothani. “I am currently also looking for the right partners for the distribution of the channel globally and I can already see the benefits of producing in 4K initially than going back and reinvesting in migrating from HD to 4K.”

Indiantelevision.com's Wanvari was more cautious in his approach on how India will embrace 4K. “I am sure 4K is the natural progression from HD, and with players like Prashant already investing heavily on creating the content pipeline, is an encouraging sign for the future of the content roadmap of the country. Although, the transponder space, which is currently available, is a cause of major concern and could be a downer for the spirits of many content distribution platforms like a Tata Sky and Videocon d2h,” he opined.

The panel also discussed how 4K would ideally be for a niche audience, which would be in a position to generate higher average revenue per users (ARPUs) for distribution platforms that are currently generating anywhere between $3-4 on a monthly basis that could go up to $10-15 with 4K being introduced.

At the end, the consensus amongst the panelists was that in the next five years, India will see a sizeable growth in the number of 4K content available on linear platforms, but these are still early days and one can only play the waiting game as the bigger challenge that still lies ahead is complete digitisation and accountability of users of content in the country.

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