Starting 2012, a new revolution hit Indian TV industry, when the Govt. made set-top boxes mandatory for watching cable TV.
At that time, there were mainly two options for the TV subscriber: Either install a set-top box from the local cable operator, or install DTH or Direct to Home via brands like Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel Digital, and Reliance D2H.
With DTH, users had to install a dish as well, whereas set-top boxes were wired connection from a central hub.
Last year, Govt. again stepped in, and announced mandatory slabs of pricing, for viewing various channels: Rs 20 for each slab of 20 SD channels.
After almost 5 years, it is still a mystery, as to which platform: Set-top box or DTH is more popular and provides more satisfaction.
Chrome Data Analytics & Media, a data analytics firm has carried out an interesting research, in order to find the best player between DTH and set-top box.
And broadly, in terms of penetration, it seems that digital set-top boxes are still winning against DTH operators.
This also means that the local cable TV operator proved to be more dominant, compared to big brands like Airtel, Tata, and Reliance.
Here are few major highlights from the report:
DTH Is Less Prevalent Compared To Set Top Boxes
As per the replies received from the sample audience, set-top boxes are clearly more preferred. While 53% of the respondents shared that they watch TV via digital set-top boxes, 47% preferred DTH.
Interestingly, out of 53% who opted set-top boxes, 65% were those who had analog cable connection earlier. Whereas out of 47% who opted for DTH, only 32% had an analog connection earlier.
The Reason Behind The Shift
For those who shifted to digital set-top boxes, Govt.’s mandatory order to shift was the main reason, as 69% attributed this as the main reason for shifting. 43% shifted for more channels, and 31% shifted for the better audio-video quality.
Only 26% of digital set-top boxes shifted due to a disturbance in analogue signals.
On the other hand, 40% of DTH users shifted because of disturbance in analogue signals, and only 33% shifted due to Govt. order. The number of channels was a reason for only 20% of users.
This means, that for DTH users, the quality of TV viewing experience was more important, compared to users of set-top boxes.
What About Satisfaction?
It seems DTH services are winning the satisfaction race here.
Out of all users who opted for DTH, 96% are satisfied, whereas out of those who are using set-top boxes, only 83% are satisfied.
This means that although set-top boxes and cable TV operators have larger penetration, it is the DTH operators which are providing better services.
But, when asked whether they will switch their services: Set-top to DTH or DTH to set-top, then the answer was uniform: No.
98% of users of both set-top and DTH said that they don’t want to switch.
Chrome Data Analytics & Media used a sample size of 1071 respondents, across India. While 59% of the respondents were men, 41% were women.
TV Channels Cite Logistical Challenges in Broadcast for the Disabled
A debate on broadcasting for persons with disabilities (PWDs) has thrown up more questions than solutions. TV channels have stated that though desirable, the process is expensive and challenging, for instance, in case of live events and that before setting guidelines for private broadcasters, pubcaster Doordarshan should lead by setting an example.
Pointing out that content to be made accessible to PWDs is viewed by the masses as well, which itself increases backend work, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has said in a country such as India, where varied languages, dialects, and language-scripts prevail, broadcasting for specially abled people is challenging.
“There should be synergies between capacity building for equipment manufacturers, distributors/re-distributors (DPOs) as well as broadcasters who are working with the Ministry [of Information and Broadcasting] for framing the Accessibility Standards for TV channels and the entire end-to-end chain of broadcasting should be coordinated, including amongst distributors and consumer premise equipment providers,” it added.
IBF, an industry organization comprising TV channels, was articulating its views on a consultation paper floated by the TRAI on making broadcast and ICT services accessible to persons with disabilities.
If the IBF stated more coordination was needed amongst various stakeholders in the broadcasting value chain, another industry body representing news TV channels, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), highlighted: “Though desirable, the effort required to make broadcasting and ICT accessible to PWDs is a major and expensive exercise.”
What are the challenges in making broadcasts suitable for PWDs? There are several financial, technical and logistical challenges, including closed captioning, which is critical for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, or those who may have a disability that requires audio description. Wikipedia clarifies the term `closed’ indicates that the captions are not visible until activated by the viewer, usually via the remote control or menu option. Many Hollywood and European films providing subtitles sometimes have closed captioning, too.
“News content presents special challenges to provide subtitling, especially in multiple languages. Most news items are cut life or within minutes of an event and there is no time to redo the content in multiple languages or provide subtitles,” the IBF has pointed out adding that TV screens in most news channels are “clogged with scrolls and headlines” leaving little space for additionally closed captions to be run.
However, it was conceded by the IBF that an effort to provide closed captioning can be made in repeat news bulletins, which, again, will carry a heavy financial burden as old clips also need to be captioned apart from news.
According to the NBA, a universal categorization is an impediment to finding a solution to the problem of accessibility for PWDs as broadcasting and ICT services include inadequate “distribution equipment and consumer premise equipment,” including remote-control systems that have voice recognition and a touch-screen.
The two industry organisations, representing a wide spectrum of TV channels in India, have not only exhorted the regulator to advise the government to provide financial incentives before launching such guidelines, but have also suggested identifying certain percentage limits (50 percent in one case) in the category or genre of TV channels that could possibly make broadcasts more accessible to PWDs.
“We request that the consultation on issues relating to distribution/re-distribution of broadcast signals and related equipment and technical aspects be suspended till the time Accessibility Standards for Television Channels are issued by the Ministry,” the IBF has submitted, adding DD must “take the lead” in providing access solutions such as visual captioning to PWDs and demonstrate their applicability for private broadcasters to develop appropriate programming and technology to meet threshold requirements.