Mumbai: Satellite-television providers Tata Sky Ltd, Dish TV and a pay-television unit of Bharti Airtel Ltd have acquired the rights to telecast ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in high definition (HD), according to the event’s official broadcaster ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd.
“We are talking to the other direct-to-home operators and will sign up other contracts shortly,” said a spokesman at ESPN Software. HDTV will allow viewers to watch the cricket matches with substantially higher clarity. The pay-TV providers may have paid as much as Rs 3 crore each for the high-definition feed, according to media buyers, who declined to be identified.
The popularity of HDTV content is set to rise as consumers purchase HD-compliant TV sets and broadcasters expand the number of channels that are available in this format. The satellite TV providers expect to use the passion for cricket in India to make this format more acceptable to consumers.
“Cricket is a national sport and HD feed of the same should attract a fair amount of the direct-to-home (DTH) segment,” said Rajesh Jain, head of media and entertainment at KPMG India. “Apart from consumption, competition will also force DTH players to look at high definition seriously.”
India is the third largest pay-TV market in terms of subscribers, behind South Korea and Taiwan, according to researcher Media Partners Asia Ltd (MPA). Pay TV revenue is estimated to reach $16 billion (Rs 72,800 crore) by 2015 from $10 billion this year, according to an MPA report published last year.
Dish TV, which plans to increase the number of channels available in HD format to 30 from the existing four, expects 10% of the new subscribers to opt for this format in the year starting 1 April, said chief operating officer Salil Kapoor.
Dish TV hopes to add 3.5 million subscribers to its 9.8 million user base in the next fiscal, he said. Still, just about 1-2% of the 3-4 million HD-ready TV sets have the service that is more expensive than the standard feed, he said.
Cutting prices of the TV channels available in HD may increase the popularity of the service. “The HD pack is now priced at Rs 2,390 from the earlier pricing of Rs 2,990,” Kapoor said.
Dish plans to offer subscribers channels including Sony, Colors, Warner Bros, AXN, Movies Now, HBO and Cartoon Network in HD, adding to its earlier offering of National Geographic, Discovery, Zee TV and Zee Cinema.
“We will also have HD feed of ESPN and Star Sports during the entire length of the World Cup,” he said.
Tata Sky has introduced Tata Sky +HD, a personal video recorder for HD content. It is priced at Rs 3,999.
“On certain days, you have two matches playing out simultaneously on ESPN and Star Sports, and subscribers have the choice of recording either, or general entertainment programming that they may miss out on,” said Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer at Tata Sky. The company has also entered into an understanding with ESPN for other forms of content, he said, without providing details.
“Viewers can choose multiple camera angles from which they wish to watch the match, Mehra said. “Cricket fans will no longer need to wait to watch match highlights, player statistics or ball trajectory. They can now access all these features at the press of a button, at any time during the match.” Viewers will also get commentary in Indian languages such as Bengali and Gujarati apart from Hindi and English. Tata Sky has also slashed its prices on sports content.
The satellite television provider has also introduced a new sports pack, which offers a combination of channels (general entertainment, movies, music, etc.) along with leading sports channels ESPN, Star Sports, Star Cricket, Neo Sports, etc., at Rs 240 a month.