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Television channels give mobile TV a shot

November 10, 2007 15:07 IST

Mobile entertainment is catching the fancy of TV broadcasters with the likes of Zee TV, Sun TV, STAR India and Doordarshan making their forays in this space.

For instance, while Digitial Media Convergence -- a part of ESSEL Group  (promoter of ZEE TV) -- provides the mobile TV (also known as the fourth  screen -- the other three comprising the silver screen, TV and PC) application service 'ISEE' along with telecom service provider BSNL.

Regional broadcaster Sun TV, too, has joined hands with Reliance  Communications to beam its programmes on Reliance mobile handsets.

Public broadcaster Doordarshan, too, has started a mobile TV pilot project and is  in the process of rolling out commercial services. Recently, UK-based mobile applications developer ROK Entertainment Group launched its streamed mobile TV system (called Tiny TV) through BSNL.

However, STAR India is the only channel that is making some headway. STAR  Mobile Entertainment, the mobile interactive division of STAR India is  aiming for a subscription base of 5 lakh by 2008, and hopes to capture 5-6 per cent of the total mobile space market share.

The company will soon play host to two international channels on its PLUS service. UK-based  entertainment channel The Sun and leading news channel FOX News.

In April this year, STAR launched PLUS which enables mobile users to access a wide choice of video content and services such as yellow pages, buyer guides, banking, travel and ticketing, shopping, sports and more.

In addition, one can opt to view soaps from across Star India's network. PLUS  which was launched in April already has around 40,000 subscribers.

Viren Popli, senior vice-president of Star Mobile Entertainment said: "With over  250 million handset users in the country, mobile phone is the widest distribution medium. To increase subscription we will look at pre-embedded deals with handset makers." STAR has a pre-embedded deal with Sony Ericsson.

The new services will be operational by November and will can be free of cost for a month, after which users will be charged Rs 30 per month for unlimited usages.

In addition, users are charged for every data transaction (Rs 10 for 1MB of data). Except Airtel, all other telecom service providers are on-board for PLUS. It is believed to be negotiating with STAR for the same.

"To begin with, we will stream textual content of the channel and short videos, then scale up by providing long videos. When technology is ready, we will introduce mobile television. As of now, we are in the process of building the base," said Popli.

STAR will also provide lifestyle channel Zoom and the National Geographic Channel on PLUS. Zoom is the first third party channel to come on PLUS under the television service and will provide channel promotional videos as free downloads, electronic programme guides, wallpapers, themes, animations, etc.

STAR Mobile Entertainment has also partnered with personal finance portal Myiris.com. Through this association, it will provide business and financial information and news to the PLUS subscribers.

"Subscribers will have access to exhaustive market data on a real-time refresh basis with the capability of researching the entire stock market, including the upcoming initial public offerings and mutual funds," added Popli.

This apart, STAR Mobile Entertainment has also signed on travel portal Cleartrip.com to enhance its travel and ticketing service.

However, analysts feel that channels need to get more variety content. "Users are still experimenting with these services, so are the service provider. This is one of the reasons why broadcasters are not jumping in," said a media expert.

Of the various genres, information is the genre that records maximum downloads, after entertainment. According to the industry, weekdays are information led, while most users seek for entertainment over weekends.

Industry estimates that, 50:50 is the revenue share between the telecom operator and content service provider (like PLUS). However, the telecom operator also earn the revenue generated from data downloads.

Aminah Sheikh in Mumbai
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