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Updated: Airtel Digital TV Introduces Freemium Pay Per View Movie Channel

AirtelDTHAirtel digital TV, the DTH arm of Bharti Airtel has announced a new Freemium Pay Per View (PPV) movie channel for its customers.

This will allow Airtel digital TV customers to watch pre-scheduled movies on its Pay Per View platform for free. To make up for the revenues, Airtel will display ads on 1/4 screen on the PPV channel, thus making only 3/4 screen available for the movie. If any customer wants to view the movie in full screen, they can subscribe to the movie by sending the SMS Book <155> to 54325 or by dialing 12150 from their registered number.

This is quite similar to what BrizzTV offers. BrizzTV’s AngelList listing suggests that it will be using this platform to show users content from unsubscribed channels while showing display ads on the side. Remember that BrizzTV had partnered with Airtel Digital TV to deploy its interactive test preparation service iExam on Airtel’s DTH service in March 2012. So it’s quite possible that Airtel digital TV has again partnered with BrizzTV to implement this new offering. A report by Techcircle confirms that Airtel has indeed partnered with BrizzTV for the offering and also states that BrizzTV and Airtel will share ad revenues.

Airtel’s Freemium PPV channel is an interesting offering for one that the company is bound to make more money from advertising than it would have made through customer subscription. Say what you want but subscription based models have not been able to sustain in most of the businesses.  That said, if Airtel can bring relatively newer movies on small screen, we feel that it could be able to generate significant revenue through this ad-supported model.

However, this offering also downgrades the TV watching experience. In March 2013, TRAI had notified significant limits on advertisements on television allowing channels to display only full screen ads and with no popups, part screen ads or drop down advertisements allowed. As far as we are aware these limits were never implemented. However, TRAI has asked TV channels to adhere to 12 minute ad-limit starting October 1, 2013, according to a Livemint report. It needs to be seen whether TRAI includes Airtel’s Freemium PPV channel to its list and if it does then Airtel’s Freemium PPV channel would certainly violate the 12-minute ad limit. Update: Airtel has informed Medianama that TRAI guidelines to adhere to 12 minute ad-limit are meant only for Broadcast channels but not PPV offerings.

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