The Indian Government has announced amendments to downlinking guidelines for TV channels, allowing them to share their feeds with IPTV service providers, reports Business Standard. Earlier they were limited only to Cable and DTH. This go-ahead has been a long time coming, and has effectively delayed the launch of commercial IPTV services from private operators, particularly Bharti Airtel and Reliance. A LOT sooner would have helped, particularly since MTNLs IPTV services appears hardly have had any impact, and BSNL is still making headlines with announcements for IPTV services, but little to show for it.
Relaince is expected to launch IPTV services later this year, ExpressIndia reports that a compulsory content storage clause is being included in the guidelines, which will require all service providers to retain content for 90 days. This works two ways:
Firstly, it enables Time-shift TV for the consumer, allowing him to view content at leisure. I wonder if we’ll see a DVR revolution in India, particularly with products like Tivo which allow users to skip advertisements.
Secondly, since the content needs to compulsorily be available for 90 days, this will allow the government to check for any content deemed illegal in India. This has been a concern, particularly since IPTV is expected to rely heavily on international channels to differentiate themselves from DTH service providers.
Legacy of Licenses
I’ve mentioned in the past that India suffers from a legacy of licenses – different FDI limits and licensing norms for broadcast and telecom domains have so far left converged services like IPTV and Mobile TV in a limbo. In March this year the TRAI had sought to begin a process of reconciliation of licenses with a consultation paper on Foreign Investment Limits for the Broadcast sector.
The government is now planning to increase FDI in DTH and Cable TV to 74 percent, according to the Economic Times. More needs to be done, though – why should Cable Operators be barred from offering IPTV services?