For a couple of years now, Tata Sky has positioned its personal video recorder as a differentiator in the direct-to-home (DTH) market. It was the only service that allowed you to record the programmes you liked but could not watch. But that advantage is now history. Airtel DTH has become the second to market this gadget. Airtel’s device not just records, pauses, replays and fast-forwards TV content, it also sways to orders given over the mobile phone.
Bharti Airtel Director and CEO (DTH) Ajay Puri says: “Surveys have shown that in homes with personal video recorders, 30-40 per cent of content watched is recorded. The average viewership of TV too goes up by 20-30 per cent in homes with recorders.” The recorder with Airtel DTH comes at a premium. It is priced at Rs 6,990, while Tata Sky Plus (the recorder set for Tata Sky) is available for Rs 1,000 less. In mature markets of the West, a majority of the DTH connections are bought with the recorder. The trend, Tata Sky and now Airtel DTH hope, will soon catch up in India.
Airtel DTH has added one more feature which could be a trend-setter. Viewers can activate the recorder on standby at their homes from anywhere using their mobile phones. With the help of GPRS on the user’s phone and its technological partner, NDS, Airtel DTH lets you record by just choosing the programme from the programming guide as displayed on your phone. “In our efforts to converge all screens, in this case TV and mobile phones, we found that consumers wanted to start recording even if they were away from the box at home,” says Puri.
The advertising campaign, starring movie actors Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, depicts the advantages of being able to record when away from home. Disappointment at forgetting recording a show would become impossible. “It is in line with our aim to make our technology border on self-service; the viewer will feel empowered to make his own choices,” Puri adds. Even though the average revenue per user might not go up drastically, the move signifies Airtel’s aim to capture more of the high-value market — those consumers who are willing to pay for more than the average set-top box.
Next up for Airtel DTH is to make its services high-definition-ready in the next few months, a scramble that the Commonwealth Games might set off. “Interactive services on HD through our three screens would have endless possibilities,” Puri says.
Airtel DTH has tried several product innovations to gain a foothold in a crowded market with six players. It combined the functions of the TV and set-top box remotes into one. It claims its box has better aesthetics than others. This was based on the insight that a television is often placed in the drawing room, so looks become important. The important question: Has it helped? Puri claims that Airtel DTH has been getting 25 per cent of the new consumers and now has 2.5 million subscribers. The latest initiative could strengthen that position.