Airtel Digital TV snippets

In a bid to lure customers into trying the DTH (direct-to-home) TV platform, industry players are getting into alliances to provide value-added services. Competition is sure to heat up in the sector with Bharti Airtel, the Sunil Mittal promoted group, all set to launch its DTH TV platform under the brand name ‘Airtel Digital TV’ on Dussera – this Thursday. Airtel has already tied up with several firms to launch a host of features: Interactive ticket-booking of cinema called ‘iMatinee’ in association with event-ticketing firm Big Tree; ‘iTravel’ with Makemytrip.com; and ‘iShop’ with Indiatimes.com.Airtel’s Digital TV has also launched a universal remote control that can tune a TV as well as the set-top box (STB) that comes along with the other DTH equipment. “We believe that the Indian DTH segment offers immense growth potential going forward,” said Atul Bindal, President (Telemedia Services), Bharti Airtel. His firm will be only the second one after the Anil Ambani-led Big TV service to offer a DTH TV service based on the latest MPEG-4 technology. The other two older players – Dish TV and TataSky – use an MPEG-2 platform for their services. Airtel’s Digital TV is also claiming that its service will not be affected by heavy rains (like other players) because it will be supplying its customers with a dish antenna that would 20 per cent larger in size. The other private player expected to enter this arena is Videocon Group.“We will commence our DTH TV operations by this year-end. We will also employ the MPEG-4 technology,” said Saurabh Dhoot, Director, Videocon Retail. All the players are fortifying their customer service capabilities too. Reliance ADAG’s Big TV, for instance, has established a call-centre each in Mumbai & Chennai with a capability of handling over 50,000 calls daily in 11 Indian languages, including English..Subhash Chandra-promoted Dish TV has tied up with ICICI Bank to offer banking and even loan-related support. In fact, thanks to this latest feature, Dish TV customers having an ICICI Bank account, can take a peek into their financial statements while sitting right in their drawing rooms.“Given the scope that DTH TV offers, we are considering many more tie-ups which will be revealed soon,” said Salil Kapoor, Chief Operating Officer, Dish TV.DTH players are also venturing into the matrimonial space in a big way. While Dish TV has joined hands with Shaadi.com, TataSky has roped in Bharatmatrimony.com. The former has rolled out this service only this month, as compared to TataSky’s July launch. “We want to take the experience of TV viewing to another level – we want to make it more interactive,” said Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, TataSky. India is currently the world’s second-largest TV viewing market, adding over 14 million new TV sets each year over and above the existing 125 million TV households. As per Industry data, India has around 65 million and 7 million households each on cable & satellite and DTH TV platforms, respectively.
Come 2009, Bharti Airtel customers will no longer be confronted with multiple bills. Bharti Airtel, along with IBM and its other IT partners, is working on the concept of a single bill for customers using its varied services such as mobile, fixedline, internet, DTH and IPTV. At a later stage, Bharti would also give its customers the option of a single bill across its three screens - the mobile phone, computer and TV. “The project to have a single bill is underway and should be in place by 2009. We are already doing trial runs in some circles,” Bharti Airtel CEO and joint MD Manoj Kohli said. According to him, the concept of a ‘common bill’ has several challenges. “Taxes are different across services. For instance, in telecom, we pay a certain percentage of our gross revenue to the government. This is different for DTH and internet services. We must therefore ensure that we are 100% compliant on the technology and regulatory sides,” he added.Bharti Airtel telemedia services president Atul Bindal said the company may go a step further than the concept of a ‘single bill’. In the near future, Bharti was examining the possibility of adding a SIM card to the set-top-box to allow its customers to pay their bills and also buy products and services through the TV screen. In fact, Bharti already offers its mobile users the option of making payments through their handsets. Besides, Bharti’s DTH service, which was launched on Tuesday, also allows subscribers to book movie tickets on the TV screen. According to an industry analyst, Bharti has an integrated back-end. Put simply, IBM provides IT support for mobile, DTH, internet and other services. Similarly, its customer service system is common across all platforms. Additionally, Bharti’s $100-million service delivery platform has also gone live. This will enable the company to offer all services related to content, messaging and application through the single platform to all its customers, irrespective of whether they use Airtel’s mobile, landline, DTH or broadband services. Adding another dimension, Mr Bindal said that customers using Bharti’s portfolio of services are less likely to shift to another player. “If a customer uses our services, the possibility of churn is much lower. This in turn increases the average revenue per user (ARPU),” he added.

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