HD channel boom imperative despite high television costs: Chrome Data’s Pankaj Krishna

MUMBAI: With digitization, the HD wave is not only hitting the Hindi general entertainment channels, but regional channels as well.  The HD channel boom began in 2015, with several broadcasters launching new HD channels or HD versions of their existing SD channels.

According to Chrome Data Analytics & Media, with a 6-7 million (60-70 lakh) subscriber base and a 50 per cent year-on-year on growth in market size, the path of high definition may be a step in the right direction for broadcasters.

Amongst others, even the infamous OTT platform Netflix, offers a package for Rs.650 with HD viewing to cater to high-end consumers, being one of the key reasons that the C&S industry is increasingly using non-linear modes of television.

The overall landscape of the industry has benefitted with the introduction of HD channels as an increase in HD penetration can be seen as a driver for subscription revenue growth.

Subscription revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR of 19 per cent to Rs 203 billion  (Rs 20,300 crore) driven by an increase in the declared subscriber base in DAS phase 3 and 4, increasing subscription revenue collected on ground due to channel packages and an increase in HD penetration.

HD channels were first ad-free and solely dependent on subscription revenue, however, with time these channels have decided to monetise through introducing HD channel feeds separately for advertising revenues.

Since the beginning of the year, several broadcasters have launched the HD version of their existing channels. After dissolving the 50:50 joint venture with Star India in 2012, Disney sports broadcaster ESPN had joined hands with Multi Screen Media (MSM) to launch two sports channel in India - Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD on 17 January.  Just a few days later, Times Network rolled out the HD feed of its English entertainment channel Romedy Now on 15 February.

Viacom 18 also launched the HD feed of its music channel VH1 on 20 Feb.  In line with broadcasters tapping the high-definition space, Viacom 18 also geared up to launch its existing regional GECs (Colors Marathi, Colors Bangla and Colors Kannada), despite already having 5 HD channels currently on-air.

Star India has successfully launched the HD feed of three of its regional SD channels, Star Jalsha and Star Jalsha Movies in HD (Bangla) with the Marathi GEC Star Pravah.

Not only Hindi GECs or regional GECs, but now news channels have got onto to the HD wave.  On 17 April this year, ITV Network launched its English news channel NewsX in HD feed.

Chrome Data Analytics & Media founder and CEO Pankaj Krishna explained, “The HD channel boom is imperative. The shift from standard to high definition is as organic as going from black and white to colour television. The cost of producing HD content has already been incurred, but the barrier to scale up lies in the hardware - procuring HD televisions is relatively expensive today. However, this is a cost which is already coming down and will further come down exponentially over the years, enabling more and more consumers to gain access to HD channels.”

This ties in with the fact that rate for such channels is higher, seeing the nature of viewers of HD content. Thus, both subscription and advertising revenue have been impacted positively. While DTH operators are reaping the benefits of revenue growth owing to the ARPU and increased subscriber base with 15 percent of HD subscribers using DTH to view HD content, the only hurdle would be for MSOs to improve their marketing skills and upsell packages that constitute HD channels so that subscribers move to these packs.

The realm that is high-definition brings along with it several benefits and certain challenges for stakeholders with more networks taking the leap to enter the market, hence changing the face of the quality of television content we watch today. 


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