India is at the threshold of entering an era of digital broadcasting, which brings for broadcasters an increase in the capacity of broadband transmission networks, better signal quality, support of HD services and interactivity, a potential reduction in transmission network energy usage and the implementation of single-frequency networks.
The government is committed to the cause. The revival of radio, firm decision not to extend the deadline for digitization of cable beyond March 31, 2017, and Doordarshan’s plan to expand its Digital Terrestrial Television footprint from the current 16 cities to another 44 reaffirm this.
FreeDish, the free DTH service of Doordarshan, is fast gaining popularity. Capable of carrying 104 channels, after the launch of MPEG4 technology, 24 channels are being added to the existing 80. Indian CAS has been implemented on its platform. Having added 10 million subscribers last year, which is more than the growth of the entire DTH industry put together, it is emerging as the best option which covers rural India.
While the LCOs and DTH operators are feeling the heat with these developments, content continues to change the way it is consumed. As the viewer shows preference for digital on-demand media platforms, several cable TV companies have started offering broadband connections and the DTH operators, hybrid set-top boxes. The new connected boxes eliminate the need to buy Internet TVs or other streaming devices as the set-top boxes offer both linear programming as well as on-demand video.
In the backdrop of these technological developments, emergence of multiple distribution platforms, evolving business models, and enhanced addressability across platforms, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s role is extremely crucial. The Authority, in March 2017, has released a unified regulatory framework, for all addressable broadcasting TV services. This framework is expected to usher in a new era in the broadcasting sector, where MRP of the TV channel will be declared by the broadcasters directly to the consumers and will bring more transparency and choices. Moving forward, TRAI, with vision of 2020, has been entrusted with the task of preparing a policy framework for digital broadcasting in India.