GTPL Hathway, the country’s second biggest cable feed provider, has been forced to postpone the launch of its hybrid Android set-top-box for the second time after the COVID-19 pandemic hit its supply line.
The company had originally planned to launch a new Android-based set-top-box, similar Tata Sky Binge+ and Airtel XStream, on April 1, but was forced to postpone the launch due to widespread Coronavirus infections in China that paralyzed production of electronics items and the pan-India lockdown announced on March 25.
The cable MSO then decided to launch the Android box at the beginning of this month (July), but disruptions in its supply chain again hit the company’s plans.
“All the things are ready..the testing has been done,” said Anirudhsinh Jadeja, managing director, GTPL Hathway.
“If we can get the box, we can go ahead and launch it. We are hoping that by the end of this quarter, or early next quarter, we can launch it.”
The supply of items like set-top-boxes was first hurt by a shutdown in China in February to April.
When that was over and production started coming back online, border tensions between India and China saw India imposing strict curbs on the import of goods from its neighbor.
For now, GTPL is hoping that it will be able to get enough stocks by the end of September or early October.
“Right now, we are trying to do it in early quarter three (October), that’s the expectation right now,” Jadeja said. “Between all the COVID and all that, we will take that call. But right now, that’s the expectation,”.
GTPL officials said the company will offer up to four services as part of a package in case customers want to reduce their bills.
The first would be high-speed broadband, without which the hybrid box can only be used for watching regular TV channels.
The second would be regular cable TV, the third would be GTPL’s own content application that has been installed on the Android box, and finally, customers can also install third-party apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar.
“We are going to bundle the services with the box and offer attractive prices to the customers. It will be value for them, any customer,” Jadeja claimed.
At present, the only company that offers anything similar is Reliance Jio.
However, Reliance Jio’s services are considerably more expensive than what an average GTPL customer pays right now.
An average GTPL customer pays only around Rs 420 per month for his broadband connection, while Jio is targeting the Rs 800-2000/month customer segment.
Another key difference between the two would be that Jio also has the option of delivering its ‘linear TV’ channels through the broadband (IP) network, while GTPL Hathway will continue to use its existing cable TV for delivering normal TV channels.
This will keep the accounting simple for GTPL as far as the sharing of revenue with local cable operators are concerned.
Even though Jio is a shareholder in GTPL Hathway, the new Android-based service will not be a rebranded Jio service, but will be supporter from end-to-end by GTPL’s own services and network, the company said.
Players like Bharti Airtel and Tata Sky also offer similar products. Tata Sky’s Binge+ service offers three out of the four components — linear TV, Tata Sky’s own application Binge+ and the option of installing third-party applications.
Airtel’s XStream service too offers all three services, plus own broadband connectivity in the cities and areas where Airtel broadband is present.
Dish D2h too have similar Android boxes.