BSNL launched it’s IPTV service recently. There has been a usual media excitement and “buzz” about IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) making it’s debut in India much after it was planned. For the plain uninitiated, IPTV involves streaming of digital content via your wireline and set top box. Last but not the least, loads of divine intervention. MTNL had earlier launched it’s IPTV but there have been no concrete reviews about the same.
It all boils down to the content. The future lord over the masses is the one who could make sure that they control the keys to entertainment streaming in your drawing rooms. Presently, the choice remains limited to Direct to Home television (DTH), Cable TV and now IPTV. Cable TV is ham handed in it’s approach. With massive under declaration of viewers, the TV channels are hard hit for the “genuine” revenues. DTH is too restrictive in it’s clauses and hasn’t really set in the cash registers ringing. The majors are slowly realising the fact that it would need major investments and years before they can break even. However, I see no such sign of the same.
The present “gold rush” to control the media by whatever means is the key to the future power leverages. Media has the potential to shape up the public opinion and slowly the proliferation of the news channels/ magazines et al is a clear pointer to the fact. However, the lords of the whole game are the content delivery systems who are in a position to dictate the terms to the media moghuls. It would take huge investments to upgrade the cable wires; DTH by itself isn’t really exciting with content restrictions. IPTV may yet be the dark horse that has the potential to change the rules of the game.
In all this brouhaha, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has not been able to exert itself, as usual. It has been issuing statements off and on without realising as to what has hit it between the legs . It is caught unawares like a deer-in-the-headlights.
The ultimate killer would be a TiVo like thingy which comes with a personal Digital Video Recorder. In my opinion, it would be a boon to the consumers who are pestered by the advertisements even in the pay channels (which is totally unfair). The whole media is not yet geared towards treating customer like a king (which is anti-thesis to the so called management principles). We are slowly moving towards the consolidation of the services because players with deep pockets are the only ones that can survive the bloodbath.
While BSNL may have the theoretical first mover advantage, Airtel and Reliance have the potential to upset it’s apple cart.They would be sitting back to see what all potential pitfalls are there and would perhaps piggy back BSNL’s efforts to “educate” consumers about IPTV. If Airtel can crow about the “service gurantees”, I am sure that they can notch up some customers of their own. Yet, the age of the entertainment junkies seems to be clearly on it’s way out- IPTV has to look simple and less confusing about setting up the whole assembly. With it’s army of poorly trained JTO’s and it’s ill informed “call centre”, it is potential recipe for disaster. Reliance too has been making the right noises earlier on but with the present moribund marketing efforts, it is being left out of contention.
What possibly it can portend for the future? IPTV needs a critical mass before it can actually suceed. This means substantial investments and the need to tie up with the content service providers. This bodes well for the fat cats and media moghuls who can monetise their content to the highest bidder and sell most of it as “value added service”.
In my opinion, the real choice for the customer is to set up a community network so that content can be cached and streamed from a local server instead of attending to every request individually. This is a far fetched dream though. Yet, if this idea succeeds, we might just see the entry of nifty gadgets like Apple’s iTv which would double up as a personal TV recorder, a mini computer and it’s ability to connect to the net and download your choice of programmes (which incidentally would serve the multitude of masses anyway). Think about the possibilities. BSNL might just introduce a premium “talk channel” where it’s IPTV users might just interact with “aunties” of all hues over the phone to keep themselves hooked over the “premium sex chat lines”. It could make a killing out of it!
This idea incidentally is far fetched and I am sure that some prude would file a case against them for obscenity. Even though, ours is a nation of f***ers with the swelling billion plus people here.
IPTV does open up a large number of possibilties indeed. It remains to be seen as to how it would play out in the real world.
(Crossposted on Desicritics)