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If you were to take stock of the various marketing campaigns unleashed in India during the just concluded FIFA World Cup 2010, there is one recurring theme that would have definitely caught your attention. So what if could not make it to South Africa, you could still enjoy the stadium experience in your living room. That was the promise. Perhaps even better than that. From TV commercials to bill boards, consumers in India were enticed with a television viewing experience far superior to what they have enjoyed till now. Simply put, the magic of high-definition television or HDTV --the next “big” thing in TV technology. And this time, it wasn't just television makers. Joining them were the direct-to-home or DTH companies who saw this as an opportune time to roll out HD services.

“June was considered the right time to launch the service. You had the FIFA World Cup and Wimbledon tennis tournament, both of which were being shot in HD format and therefore the content was available,” says Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky.

With more events like the Commonwealth Games scheduled for October and the cricket world cup early next year, to be broadcast in HD, a steady flow of content to back up the service being offered by these companies can be expected.

“Globally, growth of high-definition has been driven by HD content in sports, followed by action movies and infotainment”, says Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV. The company rolled out a high decibel campaign featuring its brand ambassador Shahrukh Khan during the FIFA World Cup.

The consumer durable companies are all smiles. They had introduced these models in the Indian market 2-3 years back when there was no content except for stray movies.

“We launched HDTV sets two years ago and they were popular even then. Now with distribution getting in place with DTH operators launching HD ready set-top-boxes, there are more reasons to buy. The contribution of full HD flat panel TV's is more than 30% of the total flat panel TV market,” says R Zutshi, deputy managing director, Samsung India. Samsung was the first company to launch full HD LCD TVs in India.

Though they are priced slightly higher than the regular TV set, HDTV has become a common feature in most of the top end models. The companies are also spending a huge amount of money in advertising and marketing these models.

A study titled, Global HD Forecasts, conducted by global research company, Informa Telecoms and Media, predicts that by 2014, there will be 276 million HD active homes globally, representing 21% of TV households. Only 5.8% of TV homes globally watched HD programming by end-2009, though the proportion is expected to increase to 7.8% by end-2010, the report says. Of the 276 million HD sets, India will have close to 10 million HDTV homes by 2014.

So what exactly is HDTV and how different is it from a regular TV? A high definition (HD) TV offers higher resolution compared to the normal standard-definition TV (which uses the cathode ray tube or CRT), and therefore offers better clarity and sharper images. They also have a higher aspect ratio (ratio of the width of the image to its height)of 16:9, which means it is more compatible with a movie, which is usually on a wide screen format. Even though India is a huge standard definition CRT TV market, there has been strong growth of LCD and plasma TV sales in India. The aspiration factor is also pushing sales.

“If you take a look globally, production of CRT TV will end soon. This will push up the price of components of CRT TV and therefore LCD and plasma will automatically become a more attractive option,” says Prasun Banerjee, director, consumer electronics, Haier Appliances India.

He adds that, of the 15 million TV sets to be sold in India this year, 3 million would be LCD and plasma. In comparison, China has already witnessed a major shift, with LCD and plasma forming 70% of the market. Most of the LCD and plasma TV's available in the market are either HD ready or full HD. Banerjee expects the market for LCD and plasma to expand to around 4.5 million by 2011.

An HD ready set is capable of accepting the signals but may not be able to display full resolution, that is, 1920 x 1080. A full HD TV set is the one which not only accepts HD signals but also displays full resolution. But does owning a TV set which is HD ready or having a DTH connection, again HD ready, automatically mean that the consumer gets a true HD experience. Unfortunately not. “For anyone to enjoy a complete HD experience, the entire chain, from the shooting stage to the end point, that is the consumer's TV set, has to be high-definition,” says Vinod Kaul, technical head, Lok Sabha TV. The 24-hour TV channel shoots the proceedings of the Lower House of Parliament using high-definition cameras. But the channel had to convert the HD footage back into standard-definition, as there wasn't any distribution platform which could carry the HD signals to the consumer homes. DTH companies have started this service very recently and the channel is looking at providing HD footage now.

Currently, there are four channels available in HD format—National Geographic HD, Discovery HD and HD avtaars of Zee TV and Zee Cinema.

To have a true HD channel, the shoot has to be done in HD cameras, which are more expensive than the regular standard-definition cameras used by most of the content producers. Typically the HD footage is up-linked to the satellite through a teleport which again has to be HD compatible. What's more, the HD channels occupy more space on the satellite's transponders compared to an SD channel. All this means the cost of the channel goes up, which eventually leads to an HD channel being more expensive than the regular SD channels.

Take, for example, Discovery HD World. The regular Discovery channel costs Rs 8 per month, whereas the HD channel costs Rs 25, three times more than the regular one.

“An HD channel is an expensive proposition now for broadcasters. We, being a global company, can do so because of economies of scale. The channel is an ad free channel and the only source of revenue is subscription,” says Rahul Johri, senior vice-president and general manager, India, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

DTH operators are, however, confident that the consumers would be willing to pay a premium. “If a customer can shell out say Rs 50,000 for a LCD, then he does have the ability to pay for the channel even at a premium price,” says Dish TV's Kapoor.

On the distribution side, there is the problem of scarcity of bandwidth. So even if the content increases, the space as of now is limited. While DTH operators have started offering HD ready set-top boxes and manufacturers are pushing HD TV sets, if the cost of conversion is high, there will be little incentive to do so.

Also, most HDTVs need an HDMI cable to deliver the true high-definition experience and these cables can be expensive, unless they are a part of the deal with the DTH operator. The whole ecosystem will have to upgraded and this might take time.

And even before the aforesaid technology makes inroads into the Indian homes, marketers are rushing in with another technology to cash in on the euphoria over three dimensional or 3D movies such as Avataar.

"Studies indicate that more than 20 million TV homes globally will be watching 3D TV within five years, with 4.6 million of those expected to be in Asia Pacific," said Harris Morris, president, Harris Broadcast Communications. The company provides technology support to TV stations across the world. 3D adoption is expected to grow parallely with HD but its growth rate will be slower than HD. “We recently launched 3D sets and the response has been good. The market is small right now, rather niche. And it is largely movies and games on the content side,” says Zutshi.

From an advertising point of view, HD channels will take sometime to take off. The simple reason being that the bulk of the TV households in India are still watching TV in SD. Also, the ads would have to be in an HD format in-orderto be aired on an HD channel. And this means, additional spending by the advetiser. On the other hand, since HD will be utilized by a niche, higher income audience in the beginning, for some advertisers this could be an attractive proposition . “ It is still at a very early stage of consumer adoption. It is only going to increase and exponentially grow. However, it’ll achieve a critical mass only over a period of time,” says R Gauthamam, MD, MindShare India. He believes the major inflexion point will come in the cricket world cup scheduled early next year. “Social interventions will lead to doable actions,” he adds.

Meanwhile Doordarshan which will broadcast the Commonwealth Games 2010 in high-definition, will be helping advertisers who choose to buy inventory on its high definition telecast. “For some of the major sponsors, we’ll help them do advertising in HD format. This is also an encouragement to go HD”, says Aruna Sharma, DG, Doordarshan. The state broadcaster will also be talking to DTH operators next month on the issue of high definition feed. “As long as they do not make any commercial gains out of the feed, display DD logo, I’ll be happy to give them free feed”, she adds.

In a way, it is a chicken and egg situation. Should content be read first or should there be demand for such a content. “If you start looking at numbers of TV sets, plasma, LCDs, HD sets, multiple sets, the numbers are still low. There is potential. It has to be a little bit slow and steady. Till the consumer mindset changes and he says that I am not going to buy all the channels, I am going to be selective, choose HD channels and I’m willing to pay that much, until then, it’ll still be a lot of talk,” says Shruti Bajpai, country head, HBO South Asia.

Source: The Financial Express

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#2
Truly I could say that viewing in HD could be a better experience than being in the stadium.
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#3
ya truly clear view 4 me
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#4
yes same here
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#5
Movies & Sports are killing it! must watch in HD. Upcoming sports event will be Common Wealth Games in HD and movies by UTV blockbusters on Tata Sky HD.
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