Den Networks, one of India’s top three cable companies, is planning to introduce4K services and ‘open’ set-top-boxes with gaming support this year, CEO S N Sharma said.
“We definitely are aware that 4K is also around the corner and the box development is already in progress may be in next three to four months’ time,” Sharma said. “I will be able to share further details on 4K and also definitely by middle of 2017, we will be trying to offer to our subscriber an open box.”
Den, with over 10 mln digital cable subscribers, is among the leaders in the cable TV business in India along with Hathway, which has around 12 mln subscribers.
However, like its cable rivals, the company more or less ‘missed the bus’ when it came to transitioning to high-definition.
While satellite-based DTH players launched their HD services 4-5 years ago, India’s cable companies are still in the initial stages of launching and expanding such a service.
As a results, cable companies lost many of their high-end subscribers to DTH.
Sharma, who rejoined Den last year after a stint with 4G operator Reliance Jio, said he was keen to make sure that they did not make the same mistake with 4K, even as it is busy pushing HD boxes.
4K, also known as ultra-high definition, offers four-times higher picture clarity (resolution) compared to high definition, and equipment required for broadcasting and receiving the content is still very expensive.
When the transition to HD took place, said Sharma, cable players failed to “move with the times” as they were busy with transitioning from analog services to digital services.
“We were all busy sorting out our business model and setting the thing right. We all stretched ourselves on seeding of boxes and suffered,” he said.
“(Customers) are willing to pay for better experience of HD services and as the content is likely to move towards 4K, definitely there will be demand,” he said.
4K TVs have come down in price, especially in the 40-inch segment. Many consumers who purchase televisions in the Rs 60,000 and above category currently go for 4K models.
It makes sense for cable players to launch 4K services before the customer goes away “for sake of one service or other,” Sharma added.
Sharma said Den will also introduce ‘open boxes’ on which users can install third-party games. At present, the company’s set-top-boxes do not come with third-party operating systems, nor do they support installation of popular apps and games.
The ‘open box’ concept has caught up in United States and ensures better gaming facilities on the same set-top-box via the internet, Sharma said.
At present, the company provides its set-top-boxes to customers at around Rs 1,000-1,200, while it costs them around Rs 1,400.
HD boxes are being sourced in the price band of Rs 1,500-2,000 and will be sold to the end-consumer at more or less the same rates, Sharma said.
Den Networks, which was initially stronger in North India, has over time spread across the country as smaller cable operators have been forced to tie-up with bigger players due to forced digitization of the television broadcasting sector in India.