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Smart Digivision To Launch IPTV In Delhi, Kolkata; Pricing; No Sun TV Content
Smart Digivision will launch BSNL’s IPTV in Delhi soon and in Kolkata by mid-May, Kapil Dev Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Smart Digivision, told MediaNama. The company, one of the franchisees for BSNL’s IPTV has launched in Chennai after rolling out services in Gurgaon, Faridabad, UP East and Bangalore.

Sun TV Not Sharing With Channels Yet

Smart’s launch in Chennai has been hit hard with broadcaster Sun TV refusing to share its channels with the IPTV provider due to lack of a corporate policy regarding IPTV. “It’s a nuisance. Some channels are not available on IPTV as Sun TV has not yet framed the policy for IPTV,” said Kumar. On if it was a competition issue, he clarified that it could not be so as they are offering their channels to DTH competitors and that it was a matter of “comfort with the technology.”

Meanwhile the delay is wearing out its potential customers in Bangalore. “There is a long list of people waiting for more channels,” he said.

Upping The Marketing Pace

Kumar believes that the only major challenge before IPTV today is effective and optimal marketing and sales effort. Smart Digivision will spark off a media campaign to boost IPTV awareness starting with UP next week. Road shows at malls, residential locations and demonstrations at homes will be conducted by Percept’s ground activation division which has been hired for this purpose. “Our proposition to customers is that our product is superior to DTH in terms of services, picture quality, and what we can deliver as services are not possible at all on DTH. DTH cannot offer real VOD and interactive services,” says Kumar.

Adding Customers

Unwilling to share the exact number of IPTV customers, Kumar said, “at this stage customer base and sales do not show the potential of the product.” Smart Digivision is adding customers at a rate that is broadly in sync with KPMG estimates, which predicted that the IPTV subscriber base in India will be 4 million by 2013 (via FE). “Our ambition is to have a base of 2.5-3 million users in the next five years,” he said.

The Reach Conundrum; Fibre To The Home

Currently IPTV can only reach homes which are within 2 kms of a BSNL telephone exchange, so for 30% of the applicants who do not fall within this range, IPTV is ruled out. “This needs a corrective measure - we need to take the fibre deeper, nearer to homes. BSNL has agreed to do it,” he said. Of course, when is a different matter with PSUs. With ISPs launching high speed broadband services such as Airtel’s 16 Mbps offering and Tata Indicom’s Digital Mumbai, last mile connectivity using fibres is being bridged.

Agreeing that IPTV is no longer a mass market service and is being positioned as a niche, high end one, Kumar said, “We are not even contemplating smaller states and are only focussing on large cities.” (ED: DTH has and CAS won the mass market mandate)

Pricing: At Par With DTH; Won’t Do What Aksh Did; Regionally Different Price Points

Kumar said, “We believe there is no reason for us to sell cheaper than DTH as ours is a superior technology but we arent taking a premium positioning either. Unlike Aksh’s low prices, we will not reduce ours.” Aksh Optifibre is a competitor and also franchisee of BSNL.

Agreeing that IPTV has moved from being a mass market technology to a niche, high end one, he said that the prices must have a commercial justification.

But price is a significant factor that will heavily influence adoption. If we were to compare between the cheapest DTH provider Sun Direct & IPTV by Smart - Smart’s Super value package on IPTV costs Rs 280 per month for 140 channels whereas Sun Direct charges Rs 999 per year for 170 channels. Airtel’s IPTV service Digital TV Interactive’s offer is again much higher than DTH rates at Rs 999 per month for 135 channels, though this includes Internet connectivity. Kumar says here that Smart Digivision will be offering different prices for different cities that will depend on the competition and scenario.

What’s New: Upgraded IPTV

In March, Smart developed a new user interface and remote. “We have enriched our VOD segment by adding Documentaries, Comics and Fitness Content. Besides, we have launched a Karaoke and Radio Service,” adds Kumar. In the next three months, the company will offer a software upgrade that will enable digital video recording capability on their set top boxes at no extra charge to customers.

Meanwhile, note that DTH services have also improved with features such as Mpeg4 videos, recording facility (Tata Sky’s pause, rewind, record of Live TV), better navigation with previews of channels (as offered by Airtel’s Digital TV) and universal remotes, according to Telegraph.

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