Airtel Digital TV Logo
Airtel Digital TV, the DTH arm of Airtel, has announced Video On Demand that will allow customers to connect their set top boxes (STB) to their broadband connection and download TV content from an on-demand video library. Currently the service is available in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, NCR, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. However, the company plans to expand the service in other cities too.

Airtel claims that this service will allows users to download movies and series on fashion & lifestyle, health & fitness, home & family, devotional, among others from its on-demand library. It’s not clear whether all TV programs from all the channels currently available on Airtel Digital TV will be available for download. It should be also noted that on-demand videos are available only in Standard Definition (SD) and not HD. Airtel attributes this to the fact HD videos require too high a bandwidth (which means that users will hit their unfair “Fair Usage Policy” easily on a broadband connection).

No WiFi support

What’s surprising is that the STB only supports Ethernet based connection. Thus it’s quite possible that if you have multiple devices requiring Internet connectivity and a single Internet connection, you’re out of luck. This not only reduces the usability but also creates wiring issues. The STB also does accept 3G/4G dongles. Customers can avail the service by sending an SMS <VDO> to 54325. Rs 125 installation charges will be applicable.

Rentals

While the service does not have any subscription charges, one will be charged on a per video basis, with videos start at as low as Rs 10. Note that videos rented are valid only for 24 hours, thus users have to download and consume content within 24 hours of renting. In comparison, movies rented on iTunes are available for 30 days after renting.

Besides the on-demand TV, Airtel Digital TV HD is 3D ready and comes with Dolby Digital Plus. It also allows one to record TV shows by using a recording remote control and connect an external USB drive.

Bandwidth Issue

Airtel informs that users can use their own Internet connection, but that the service works better with a minimum of 2MBPS connection. Now, even if a customer does have a broadband connection to utilize service, the official definition of broadband speed in India is 256kbps which would not really give a satisfactorily result for the service. The broadband speed in India is subjected to increase only after the implementation of NTP-2012, even then it will be 512Kbps till 2014-15 and 2Mbps after that.

Competition

While there aren’t many players in the on-demand TV shows, we have seen a lot of activity in the on-demand movies section.

Tata Sky had launched its Video on Demand service which includes Catch Up TV and VoD Movie Library. The service included channels like Star Plus, Colors, SAB TV, NDTV, SONY Entertainment, Channel V and others which would be hosted on the Tata Sky server. The service also featured a Movie Library with over 500-1000 movie titles across multiple genres and languages.

In December 2012, Apple had extended iTunes Store to India adding the ability to purchase and rent movies. HD Movies are priced between Rs 290 to Rs 490 per download or Rs 120 for Rental, while SD Movies are priced at Rs 190 for download and Rs 80 for Rental.

Eros International’s Eros Now offers online streaming service for $4.99/month which has been reduced to $2.99/month possibly as an introductory offer, although we assume the movie catalog will be limited to only Eros’s entire film catalog. Verismo’s Mela also offers a similar VoD service, through its iPad and Roku apps for a monthly subscription of $4.99.  Rajshri Media, the Internet and Mobile arm of Bollywood production house Rajshri Films, offers their movies on YouTube for free supported by YouTube ads. Spuul.com, the streaming service that offers Indian movies and TV shows online, had tied up with Yash Raj Films (YRF) to make the studio’s movies available on the website.

Apart from that, we also have VoD sites such as Boxtv.com* and Bigflix that allows users to play premium movies on demand on a monthly subscription basis.

Related
Airtel To Introduce VOD Service For Airtel DTH Users: Report

*Diclosure: Times Internet, which own Boxtv.com, is an advertiser with MediaNama