The changes in technology in the past decade have taken a big leap. From turning the antenna at just the right angle on our roof to get a signal during the much awaited cricket match to talking about web 5.0 and decentralization, it just seems surreal.
Internet as technology has made things so much easier and given people the independence to choose what they like. The television set was one of the things that used to bring the family together for a shared watching experience every day. However, with recent changes in the demands and technology, the viewing habits of people have become highly personalized. Somehow the joy of watching television together has dwindled.
The arrival of OTT and the change in viewership pattern post covid, has made everyone wonder about the future of traditional Television. Prasar Bharati, which is India’s public broadcaster, comprising of Doordarshan and All India Radio, has also decided to make a leap for the new technology by announcing D2M model for broadcasting. Direct to Mobile or D2M aims at beaming multimedia content directly on the phones. It will be similar to radio where the phone can tap into frequencies broadcast by Prasar Bharti for the content without the use of internet.
Even though it is very progressive and ambitious of Prasar Bharati’s CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati to spearhead this change but it might be prudent to consider other options as well. Mr. Partho Dasgupta, Former CEO of BARC states, “If Prasar Bharati could own a DTH platform, it could also own an OTT one and the growth of the internet and upcoming 5G will make its coverage large enough simply putting its content on OTT will give access to mobiles every other citizen will be able to watch and hear”. Since OTT platforms have become insanely popular it makes sense to use this existing technology instead of spending crores of taxpayer’s money for this broadcasting system that may not attract viewers as much.
The main use of D2M seems to be to put an emergency alert system in place so that people may receive emergency messages from the PM or President in case of an emergency. “In a time when news channels run live telecasts of news, it becomes redundant to spend so much money on an alert system,” says Partho Dasgupta. The ‘Emergency alert system’ in the US which became operational in 1997, has rarely been used for emergency broadcast since its inception due to the ubiquity of news coverage. It is mainly used to issue a warning regarding local emergencies like flash floods, AMBER alerts, and other civil emergencies. Also, all broadcast televisions; satellite radio stations as well as multichannel video programming distributors are legally required to participate in the system. Similar laws could be put into place in India to deliver emergency news.
“This mass rollout of the technology will require major regulatory and infrastructure changes. Also, an on-boarding of major stakeholder like mobile operators is also going to be a challenge,” says Partho Dasgupta BARC’s Ex CEO. It is a fact that in the North-Eastern states there is a lack of mobile connectivity and states bordering India-Myanmar use Myanmar-based mobile towers. Meghalaya alone has 1164 villages that do not have connectivity. Even though BSNL has approved 352 towers in the northeast, until this happens the plans of D2M are not going to be fruitful.
Kerala has already launched its state-owned OTT platform called ‘CSpace’ developed by the culture department, in association with Kerala State Film Development Corporation which will offer an array of content in the local language. Partho Dasgupta BARC ‘s Ex CEO states “After this other states may also foray into OTT space and prefer it over other means to provide content for their audience. It just goes to show that we just need to use the current options we have instead of draining money on new technology”.
As far as the data consumption is concerned Times group has a proprietary technology (MX Player) that allows a user a view time of 10 hours using only 1 GB data pack. It has a subscription of over 200 million and is the world’s first OTT platform to upgrade its video encoding & compression technology to H.266 (Versatile Video Coding). It slashes data usage for streaming videos by more than half. Such technologies can be considered by Prasar Bharati on OTT platforms for their concern over too much traffic on the internet spectrum.
Phasing out a technology in a country like India and introducing a new one is a mammoth task. Therefore Prasar Bharti should consider OTT as the alternative to D2M as till the time this new technology is developed and rolled out there will be other better advancements in technology. OTT can be initiated quickly in comparison to D2M and can be changed with changing times.