Direct to Home service provider Tata Sky is testing a Video on Demand service that will enable its subscribers to watch previously telecasted or new content through a broadband connection. However, since the service would require a connection via a LAN cable, it would be restricted to subscribers who own a Tata Sky+ HD set top box, the only one that features an ethernet port.
According to forum postings by some users and a recent tweet by Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan of the Times Group, the company is calling up selected subscribers and offering a trial of the service. In a way, the service would be similar to IPTV services offered by telcos such as MTNL, BSNL and Airtel, which offer their subscribers access to content broadcasted previously upto seven days for selected TV channels, and movies & videos on demand.
A news report in the Hindustan Times had also indicated that Tata Sky was in the final stages of negotiations to launch a Netflix-like video on demand service in India.
- Content tie-ups: This implies that the DTH company would have entered into agreements with broadcasters and content aggregators for carriage through internet protocol, and would have set-up a server infrastructure to store and stream content. All of this needs new investments and expenditure, and the company would certainly look to monetize the stream.
- Only for Tata Sky+ HD: This makes Tata Sky HD+ the only device capable of recording content, and accessing more content in the cloud, in a way substituting its limited storage capacity.
- Bandwidth for VOD; FUP caps?: While two way satellite links are expensive, and would need additional equipment or a different set-up, going the IP way without dedicated tie-ups with ISPs would make the service unfeasible.
With the FUP (Fair Usage Policy) caps on bandwidths and network congestion, we wonder how Tata Sky plans to push the service. It might offer the service free of charge initially, but if it plans to offer subscription packages, it would need dedicated internet plans that offer unlimited data and bypass caps, since the service would involve transfer of a large amount of data. ISPs like Airtel, which also run a competing DTH and IPTV service, might not be interested.
Personally, having used an Airtel 2 Mbps wired connection for accessing video content on a Smart TV, I can say that the experience has been far from satisfactory, with high-quality videos buffering all the time.
I don’t know if Tata Sky might use some compression technique to encode videos to consume less data, and upscale them once they hit the box. But otherwise its unlikely that users will sign-up or pay for the service.
Would you sign-up for a subscription based VOD service?