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DTH cos ready with high-definition set-top boxes
NEW DELHI: Nearly three decades after the Delhi Asian Games touched off a revolution in colour televisions in India, direct-to-home (DTH) TV service providers are hoping another sporting event will turn out to be a similar game-changer.

DTH television service operators such as Dish TV, Reliance Big TV, Airtel Digital TV and Tata Sky are bracing to launch high-definition (HD) set-top boxes to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October, looking to woo consumers with content that is superior in audio and video quality to traditional TV systems.

“Just as the Asian Games was the driver for colour televisions in India, we believe the Commonwealth Games would drive HD service in the country,” says Dish TV COO Salil Kapoor. HD set-top boxes, which offer wide-angle viewing, are considered particularly suitable for watching sporting events and action movies. For DTH firms, HD set-top boxes promise a lucrative revenue stream as they will be priced higher than traditional devices and carry higher monthly charges.

DTH companies currently charge Rs 137-210 for services. Market leader Dish TV and Reliance Big TV will launch HD-ready boxes by June while Airtel is looking at a date just before the Commonwealth Games begins. Tata Sky is yet to decide on a date, though its products will hit the market this year.

Currently, Sun Direct is the only player offering HD content. The company is beaming Indian Premier League matches in this format. Though companies said these are still early days for deciding prices, a senior DTH company executive said HD boxes would cost up to 30% more than standard set-top boxes that carry a tag of Rs 1,000-2,000.
The only sop for the consumer now is that the standard set-top-box is cheaper than its cost. In contrast to the standard offering of Rs 2,000-4,000, Sun Direct’s HD connection for a year is nearly Rs 10,000. Dish TV’s Kapoor says his company would like its services to be 25% cheaper than the competition.

Still, marketers say the eventual pricing of HD-ready boxes will depend on how aggressively DTH operators push products. An HD-compliant set-top box aside, consumers must have an HD television set to experience the service. Airtel Digital TV chief marketing officer Sugato Banerji says by next year, nearly 3 million HD-ready TVs will hit the market. There are also five channels, including Discovery, Colors and National Geographic, which are available in HD format.

“We expect another 5-6 HD channels to be launched this year that will further drive growth of HD services in the country,” he said. The efforts of DTH operators could be also buttressed by Prasar Bharti, the official broadcaster of the Commonwealth Games, which will beam content in the HD format.

Source: The Economic Times

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