How Prasar Bharati’s data-free online TV offering may spoil OTT players rural India plan

Prasar Bharati

India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which runs All India Radio and Doordarshan (DD), is working on a data-free technology to offer online content to rural smartphone users.

Through the Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) technology, consumers can receive TV channels via radio waves on smartphones or tablets without data consumption. TV-On-Go (link) is dedicated app for this on Google Play Store and claims to have 100,000 downloads.

Meanwhile, when Entrackr team tried installing the app to verify the claim, it received ‘Cannot Find Accessories’ message. Entrackr‘s queries regarding the project to Prasar Bharti CEO did not elicit a response till the publication of the report.

The platform will allow smartphone users to avail the service without internet and free of cost, outlined The Ken report.

Currently, it is available in 19 cities and plans to expand in 44 cities in next 24 months. The business model of the platform will be advertising-driven.

It aims to address the entertainment needs of the users who find it difficult to spend money on the internet every month. DTT is seen as OTT (over-the-top)-alternative for rural India. Till now, the OTT space is dominated by private players such as Netflix, Airtel, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar.

Online video streaming market is growing significantly. In 2016, it witnessed the entry of global online video streaming leaders such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as the launch of the major broadcast network backed platforms, such as Voot (Viacom 18) and OZee (Zee TV).

According to the data from app analytics firm App Annie Inc, Hotstar, whose content is in sync with both urban and rural people, is a top video streaming app in terms of monthly active usage followed by JioTV and JioCinema.

However, they have not able to scratch the rural market. More so because Prasar Bharti has the monopoly over Terrestrial technology. Importantly, only the public broadcaster can use terrestrial technology to transmit TV channels and no private company is allowed. This has made the technology exclusive to Prasar Bharti.

Earlier, the broadcasting agency has planned to launch an online news platform this year. It plans to emulate UK’s British Broadcasting Corporation and Qatar’s Al Jazeera. The idea is to give India a voice on the global stage.

Union information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani also said the timing is right for the state-owned broadcaster to launch a news channel focused on India for the international market.

“No other channel has the kind of reach Doordarshan has. The one thing Prasar Bharati has, which no other media company does, is infrastructure that touches each part of the country,” said Smriti in an interview last month.

According to television rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India, there are 183 million TV households in India. Though declining viewership and unattractive content in the space remain a challenge.

TRAI in its recommendation has noted that DTT expects to witness a positive growth, to become the second largest digital television platform, after cable TV.

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