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UHD TV content takes baby steps in India, gears up for high ARPUs

A year ago we had witnessed the
launch of UHD (Ultra HD) 4K
television sets as well as DTH
companies such as Tata Sky and
Videocon D2h launching their UHD 4K
set-top boxes. With the launch of
the first UHD TV channel in India,
the UHD market is set to grow. But
challenges will abound
A year ago we had witnessed the
launch of UHD (Ultra HD) 4K
television sets as well as DTH
companies such as Tata Sky and
Videocon D2h launching their UHD 4K
set-top boxes. At that time while
the technology had arrived one of
the most important question was
whether there would be enough UHD
TV content from broadcasters. Just
yesterday we saw the launch of the
first UHD TV channel ‘Insight ’ in
India by Netherland-based
broadcaster TERN (Television
Entertainment Reality Network) in
partnership with iTV Network.
This comes as good news to India as
the channel will be launched first in
India among other Asian countries
and in Europe to around 60 million
homes. The channel will be
broadcasting 200 hours of original
UHD content in the factual
entertainment or infotainment
UHD content still nascent stage
However, UHD content on TV still
continues to be very miniscule. This
is not only in the case of India but
the world over, as the technology
though available is still not being
used extensively in the production of
TV content globally. Except for a
few international tournaments such
as the FIFA World Cup that took
place last year and the ICC Cricket
World Cup this year, there is very
little content being produced and
broadcast in UHD content. These two
international tournaments too had
only selected few matches broadcast
in UHD 4K.
This is even the case in other
developed TV markets such as the US
where viewers do not have enough
content to watch in UHD or 4K
despite the fact that they might own
a UHD TV and cable setup. Except for
some of the content produced by OTT
players like Netflix for House of
Cards and even by Amazon, not much
content is being produced in the UHD
format yet. An article on
international technology portal
‘Wired’ highlighted that the biggest
problem with 4K was the lack of
content being produced by
broadcasters. The report says that
especially with live content there
remains to be a challenge in the
production and streaming with the
large size of the data and even when
streaming it requires a 20Mbps
The lack of UHD content is due to
the problems many broadcasters
face in the production of UHD
content which would require special
equipment such as new cameras,
larger data storage, high-powered
mastering systems and finally the
most important is the broadcasting
space. While the broadcasting space
for an HD channel is four times an
SD channel feed, a UHD channel
required several times more the
space of an HD channel. This has
even got many broadcasters even in
the US thinking about the financial
viability of launching a UHD channel.
That being said the first UHD 4K
channel that will be launched in the
US will be NASA UHD that will be
launched by the US space agency and
was announced in September this
HD channel growth a positive sign
for UHD
HD channels are expected to grow in
terms of adex by 20% to Rs.35 billion
in India. The HD subscriber base has
even grown to more than 4 million
according to the FICCI-Frames 2015
report. While HD subscribers
currently account for 10% of the
DTH subscribers they are expected to
rise by 15-20% during the year.
The ARPUs (average revenue per
user) are also expected to much
larger for broadcasters as well as
DTH players. In fact DTH players
have grown their top line by tenfold
due to HD channel subscriptions. The
ARPUs for HD channels are 3x more
than for SD channels. This is the
reason that there have been
numerous HD channels launched by
TV broadcasters during the last year
till now. Many of the broadcasters
have even generated a lot of ad
revenues by having separate HD
feeds. This was done really well by
Star India Network that created a
separate HD feed for advertisers to
target HD viewers during the Cricket
World Cup.
This gives much impetus for UHD TV
channels and UHD content as many
broadcasters had a similar view
when HD technology came into play.
While UHD channels would initially be
for a niche audience the ARPUs
similarly will be much higher.
According to media report the ARPUs
generated by UHD 4K channels would
be anywhere $3-4 (approx.
Rs.200-260) on a per month basis
and could go up to $10-15 (approx.
Andrew Spriggs, CFO, TERN on the
launch of the UHD channel in the
Indian market said, “With UHD as
with anywhere in the globe it will
take a little time to settle in, as we
saw with HD as well. If you look at
the market forecasts they are
predicting 41% globally of all TV by
2020 will be UHD TV’s. But in India
yes we are going with UHD with the
key pay TV platforms, we are also
broadcasting on HD on the linear
side. But we also see a huge
opportunity in India for the non-
linear side.”
With regards to the ad rates he said,
“Our ad rates will be competitive
with the market. Yes we are
pioneering new technology. We see a
huge value in being the front runner
in that because it gives us a strong
market position and will use that to
drive our ad revenues rather than
the effective ad rates per minute.”
Though it is still early days for UHD
4K in India, it is expected to see a
growth in the next few years. With
the first UHD channel Insight being
launched in India we could possible
see more TV broadcasters in India
taking the plunge to launch their
own UHD channels.

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