Kartikeya Sharma’s ITV Network has entered into a long-term alliance with the Kamlesh Bhanushali and Vishal Gurnani-led Trilogic Digital Media (TDML).
The latter will run non-news channels under both entities, including India’s first ultra-high definition (UHD) channel, Insight. TDML is a broadcast management and audio-visual content syndication company, with interests across the spectrum of the TV and digital media business. It currently runs three channels –Sahara One, Filmy (Hindi movie channel) and F-TV (a global fashion and lifestyle channel).
Under the alliance, new channels will be launched in the entertainment segment, with the aim of occupying a niche where the promoters have identified lacunae. Vishal Gurnani, managing director of TDML, explains: “Four networks have a presence across genres. We feel there is scope for a fifth. With the differentiation we are bringing in, hopefully, what is called the Big Four will become the Big Five.”
While the alliance will launch and operate the (new and existing) entertainment channels, TDML will also distribute news channels under ITV Network. The new channels under the alliance include a Bhojpuri one and a live entertainment channel, Iconcert. The latter will include archived and new concerts by international artists. There is no channel that plays only concerts of international artists and Gurnani feels the concept will have a lot of acceptance. Iconcert will be an exclusive HD channel which will have over-the-top and video-on-demand features as well. This is being developed in association with Yogesh Radhakrishnan, who has extensive experience in the broadcast industry. The network is also in talks to acquire a leading Hindi music channel.
With this alliance, TDML will also be responsible for the distribution and daily operations of the factual entertainment channel, Insight. The channel is being launched in Europe and India and aims to reach 60 million viewers. In India, the channel will have two beams. An HD beam will be available across digital cable and DTH operators, and a UHD beam will target the 25,000 or so UHD households in the country. The channel will have a mix of international and India-specific content, all of which will be produced and broadcast in UHD.
“High definition platforms are the main driver for ARPU (average revenue per user) in the distribution/subscription space. The way the market is going, UHD can contribute greatly to this growth. Until now, there was a dearth of content on the UHD platform and Insight is an attempt to fill that gap. It gives us a first-mover advantage, too,” explains Gurnani.
While the UHD market is still small in the country, he says the trends show the next three or so years will be a growth phase for the segment.
“Prices for UHD television sets have already fallen to almost half over the past 12-18 months and this is expected to fall further over the next three years. That, combined with the availability of distribution platforms and content, will give a boost to UHD channels,” he says.
Insight will also have interactive features, once set-top boxes equipped with two-way communication (as opposed to the current linear communication) are seeded in the country. It will look at subscription as the main revenue stream, aided by innovative ad-sales deals.
The conviction in launching new entertainment also comes from the fact that the broadcast sector will be undergoing the third phase of digitalisation in the coming months. The deadline for this phase is December 31 and it implies that more tier-2 and tier-3 territories will have digital distribution. This means the bandwidth issues that phase-3 towns and cities currently have will no longer exist and more channels can be distributed and consumed.
The alliance will be in investment mode for the next two years and expects returns from 2018, when the channels would have been launched and stabilised.