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India: 20 UHD channels by 2020

A panel at MIPCOM heard Indian broadcasting experts predict a buoyant future for Ultra-HD channels in India. New 4K programming is coming online now, with three India DTH operators about to show their first 4K Bollywood movie, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, on October 11th.

Star India will broadcast the film, while Videocon d2h, Tata Sky and Airtel Digital TV will all show the hit movie which stars India’s top male star Salman Khan. The movie will re-open some of India’s 4K efforts which have stumbled somewhat since the ending of this past winter’s International World Cup cricket coverage.

But Videocon d2h’s deputy CEO Rohit Jain said Videocon d2h is very much focusing on innovation as a key differentiator and Ultra-HD is a part of this attempt to be better than its rivals. Star, for example, will not continue with 4K after the movie’s screening, at least for the time being.

Videocon d2h is believed to have around 8,000-9,000 4K subscribers and currently its 24/7 service is ‘free’ to its HD subscribers. Videocon d2h has its own 4K-ready set-top box while broadcasters also depend on access via built-in 4K functionality on ‘smart’ Ultra-HD displays.

Tata Sky is said to have some 5,000 4K subs while Airtel reportedly has around 1,000 subs.

Jain says that the main obstacle to greater take-up is a lack of understanding as to what the technology offers.

Local production company iTV is making 4K programming (for the TERN-backed Insight Channel) as is TravelXP. Travel XP already has an HD channel on air, and is expected to launch a full-time UHD service over India and the Middle East by April 2016.

Mumbai-based Prashant Chothani, CEO at TravelXP says they are wholly committed to UHD with some 50 hours in production now.

BT Media & Broadcast Enterprises’s VP Mark Wilson-Dunn, responsible for bringing the ICC cricket World Cup signals from Australia to India, suggested that India “at a minimum” could have 20 channels. His fellow-panellists, however, were less optimistic. Chothani talked about a half-dozen, while local journalist and media-watcher Anil Wanvari talked only of “about four or five”.

Videocon d2h’s Jain, the only current 4K broadcaster, said he was very happy to accommodate any number of UHD channels and they – and the industry – would find the bandwidth to carry the channels. “The numbers could be anything, 10, 20, 40 who really knows today. What we have not done enough yet is in education, and content, and we have to appeal to more consumers who will pay.”


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