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High definition is the way to go

Suvi Dogra & Ashish Sinha  |  New Delhi 

ENTERTAINMENT: Broadcasters, DTH operators and consumer electronics makers ready themselves for the next technological leap.

Slowly and silently but very steadily, the whole television experience in the country is climbing up the value chain. High definition format and Blu-ray technology will soon be the key differentiators for broadcasters, direct-to-home (DTH) operators as well as consumer electronic producers as the fight for market share gets intense.

High definition is a digital television broadcasting system with higher resolution, enhanced picture and sound quality than traditional television systems that operate on standard formats. The resolution of high definition television content is up to five times higher than standard television. It has a wider aspect ratio of 16:9, supports five times the channel surround sound and its picture quality is comparable to that of a 35-mm film.

Broadcaster INX Media, which operates 9X, NewsX and 9XM channels, is already producing its news feed in high definition format. And the company thinks it could be its key differentiator in the clutter of channels that exists across genres.

“We are high definition-ready from the first day of the transmission of NewsX. We are also shooting a large chunk of our serial, Mahabharat, on 9X in high definition format,” says Indrani Mukherjea, founder and CEO, INX Media, adding: “It’s expensive but you can clearly make out the difference in the quality of our channels and some of the others.”

Niche broadcaster National Geographic Channel has sought permission from the government to start a high definition channel. More are expected to follow. DTH operators like Dish TV, Tata Sky, Sun Direct, and Big TV say they are ready to carry these high definition channels on their platforms.

Like all new technology platforms, high definition content is expensive. According to experts, it could be 1.5-2 times costlier than shooting in standard format. There will be extra costs for the consumers too.

“The bandwidth requirement will be slightly more than carrying the channels in standard format but it is a question of demand and supply. Consumers will have to buy a high definition television set and upgrade their set top boxes when we begin transmitting high definition channels,” says Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV, the country's largest DTH operator. ll high definition products come at a premium of 15-30 per cent over standard counterparts depending on the special that the product offers.

Still, most consumer electronics companies feel high definition is the future of television in the country. Philips India believes that despite the unavailability of content, readying domestic market for high definition and Blu-ray is necessary.

“These are the ultimate benchmarks of technology both in Europe and US and it is important for Philips to reinforce its brand position as a provider of this technology right at the beginning,” says Vivek Sharma, chief marketing officer, Philips India. Besides eight new full high definition LCD televisions, Philips is also introducing its Blu-ray disc player in India.

Sony too has been keenly cultivating the high definition market in the country. It has already introduced a range of high definition products including Playstation 3, Bravia LCD TVs, cameras and camcorders. The company is in talks with broadcasters in India for developing high definition television. Incidentally, the Playstation 3 is a device that can double as a Blu-ray player.

Samsung, on the other hand, is already seeing brisk sale of such products. “Around 20 per cent of our LCD TV sales in India are coming from full high definition series,” says Ravinder Zutshi, deputy managing director, Samsung India. Samsung will also bring high definition cameras and camcorders to the country this year.

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First Published: Wed, September 17 2008. 00:00 IST