For a country that’s well on its way to achieving 100% digitally addressable systems, what is the one thing that would help differentiate one direct-to-home (DTH) operator from the other? The answer is exclusivity of content. In recent days, Airtel Digital Television has come up with a talent show for kids in the age group of 4-13 years. Kids can upload two-minute videos onto a page and Airtel will select 50 videos and showcase them on their interactive channel for kids called iKidsworld. Participants would be notified about the exact timings of the programme giving them a chance to watch themselves on television and inform friends and family about their two minutes of fame. Airtel Digital TV has a subscriber base of 8.6 million as on September 30 2013 and has other interactive channels as well, such as iDarshan which gives spiritual content, iExam which is a coaching center on television and iMusic which gives dedicated music content.
DTH companies are floating independent channels of their own and are scouting for partners to help them put up exclusive content. Some call them active channels, others tag them as interactive channels and then they are also dubbed as value added services or applications.
One of the first movers in the area of “active” channels is Tata Sky, a joint venture between the Star network and Tata Group. “As of April 2013, we have a subscriber base of 11.5 million and 28% of them access these channels,” says Vikram Mehra, chief commercial officer at Tata Sky. “All the channels under the Actve brand are pay, except for Actve Darshan. A consumer can access them for Rs45 – on a monthly basis, but if he enters into a longer term contract, he can access it for as low as 70 paisa/ per day. More than 2 million people have subscribed to such content, which is why it’s a viable revenue stream for us,” says Mehra adding that he personally is a big believer in the revenue potential of such channels, which is why they, unlike other DTH companies, are not giving out this content for free. “If you give it for free, customers will never take it seriously. And this is good premium content. In fact, I have 73 people whose entire mandate is to ensure the smooth working of these channels.”
Tata Sky has recently started out with Actve Vedic Maths which has