(with inputs from Salman SH) Airtel today launched a DTH set-top-box (STB) with Android TV, preloaded with apps like Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, etc. This offering essentially combines its DTH service of over 500 satellite channels, with the ability to stream content on TV using apps supported by Android TV. The set-top-box connects to the Internet over WiFi, and Airtel says that users will need at least a 4mbps connection for Internet TV to work. According to Akamai, only 38% of Internet connections in India were above the 4Mbps threshold during Q4-CY16. Why is Airtel doing this? With Internet connectivity improving in India, the threat of "cord-cutting" (i.e. going off traditional distribution) is on top-of-mind for most DTH and cable companies. By launching a set-top-box which integrates Android TV, Airtel ends up giving users more choice, locks them into the service with the box, and helps the DTH service retain customers. We don't have data on the Smart TV penetration in India, but there are plenty of devices that allow users to convert HD TVs into "Smart" TVs. Netflix is integrated with most Smart TV's, even though the service is expensive in India, at around Rs 499 per month. Note that Airtel Internet TV doesn't bundle in Netflix, but users can still sign up for a free trial, which they can on any Smart TV. All this integration really achieves is that it gives users multiple options for streaming services, including Airtel's Wynk Movies, in a single menu. While that's convenient, I'm wondering (once again)…
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