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Is IPTV Just A Limited Form Of The Internet?

On the panel at IPTV India 2009 on Friday, I began taking notes of the services that IPTV has to offer consumers. IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television, is believed to be the future of TV: content is streamed to homes via Internet Protocol, and the service allows users to interact with each other and via a return path, unlike DTH or digital cable. One premiss is that this interactivity will eventually allow users sitting at home to interact live with TV, and enable service providers to offer them a wider range of content. 

The list of services currently on offer, however, doesn’t appear to be significantly different from what is being offered to DTH subscribers in India: Time Shift TV, Video on Demand and Pay Per View, though the library may be larger. Keep in mind that although it is illegal, users do download TV shows from the net – whether on their home or office connections. So video on demand isn’t going to be killer app, though Time Shift TV might work. 

There are other services like Messaging, Classifieds, videos (called A-Tube) and iControl Mail which Aksh Optifibre is currently offering, but for a consumer who already has broadband, this is hardly a value add; certainly isn’t reason enough for me to switch to IPTV. In fact, IPTV does appear to be a limited – even restrictive – form of the Internet. So would I prefer that the TV be my access point to the Internet, or that the Internet be my access point to TV content? Quite frankly – the latter.

One reason for that, is the wider interactivity that the Internet allows, in comparison: while I have DTH or Digital Cable, I’m quite happy interacting with others using my PC or mobile, while simultaneously watching TV. You would know what I’m talking about, if you followed the discussion on Twitter (#IndiaVotes09) or Facebook as the election results in India unfolded, or even the matches during Indian Premier League, while simultaneously watching TV.

There is value in the coverage on TV, but people want to participate, and hence there is as much – if not more – value for users online. One solution for IPTV service providers would be to take their TV blinkers off and offer consumers a wider experience, with greater integration with the Internet, and leverage as much freedom to consumers as the Internet has to offer.

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If there are almost 7 million DTH subscribers, and around 6 million broadband connections in India, I wonder how many DTH subscribers also have broadband connections. Airtel is no longer viewing IPTV as a mass market service, rather, as a premium service being offered to existing broadband consumers in metro cities. So why would a broadband consumer want a limited form of the Internet on his TV set?

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