While the experimental run with Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) is on in the metros, public broadcaster Doordarshan (DD) is faced with a chicken-and-egg situation. The problem is related to the cost of DTT and its demand.
The DTT technology can be marketed only if the cost of the set-top box is reduced significantly. But, for the price of the box to go down, set-top box manufacturers need a big market.
And the market size will be nothing to write home about until the cost comes down, indicate DD officials.
Who will take the first step now is a big question. Will the set-top box manufacturers be ready to roll out boxes at a much cheaper price for a market launch?
So far, they are not committing on that one. If not, will consumers make an one-time investment of around Rs 4,000 for a technology that will give them just a few DD channels? DD officials are deliberating on how to offer the best in the DTT package.
There are four options that DD is working on to make DTT attractive and marketable. First, it plans to offer more channels, as against the current offering of five. While the DTT experiment in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata is only with five DD channels each, DTT in Bangalore is expected to have 10 DD channels starting March, according to DD director-general SY Quraishi. The channels on offer right now are DD National, DD Metro, DD Bharati, DD Sports and DD India.
The second initiative is to reduce the cost of the set-top box for DTT. For that, negotiations are on with manufacturers. Mr Quraishi said that efforts are on to persuade set-top box manufacturers to bring down the price of a box to Rs 1,500 from Rs 4,000. This is a tricky situation as the pricing of set-top box is directly proportional to the market size, it is felt.
Another option that DD is considering is multi-functional boxes so that, the same set-top box can be used for DTT, Conditional Access System (CAS) and also Direct-to-Home (DTH) television. Of course, such a multi-functional box will mean a hike in prices. “DD is discussing that possibility with set-top box manufacturers,” said Mr Quraishi.
Finally, the broadcaster is trying to exploit the ability of movies to attract viewers. Along with the DD channels, there are plans to introduce a movie channel in the DTT bouquet.
DTT is a technology which enables consumers to access a bouquet of DD channels with the help of a set-top box. The upside of getting DTT: You get to bypass your neighbourhood cablewallah! And the downside: Spend your day watching DD, DD and more DD!