End of advertisement-free viewing for HD viewers !

Broadcasters are trying to recover investments in setting up HD feeds, say media experts

Television audiences in India may soon find themselves at the receiving end of the battle brewing between broadcasters and advertisers over selling inventory on the high-definition (HD) feeds of their existing channels, bringing to an end the almost ad-free viewing experience they currently enjoy.

Broadcasters are to soon begin showing commercials on HD channels, according to ISA. ISA regards the HD feed as another distribution channel similar to direct-to-home (DTH) or cable without any difference in programming or show timings.

“An advertiser is already buying commercial time on the same programme at the same time on standard definition. Besides, in most developed markets, broadcasters do not book ads separately for standard and high definition feeds.”

said Bharat Patel, chairman of ISA, which has 200 advertisers as members.

Although broadcasters agree that most of them carry the same content on two feeds, they say that the channels are distributed separately and hence need to be treated thus.

The dispute isn’t bringing much comfort to consumers who are already complaining that ads are not restricted just to the free-to-air standard-definition channels and also carried by those that are pay. HD subscribers are further irked by the prospect of commercials because they currently pay twice the normal rate for the privilege of watching higher-resolution pictures. The HD set-top box costs double the SD box and subscriptions are costlier as well.

“If HD channels start airing commercials, then I want a reduction in my channel subscription,”

said Ashish Tiwari, a Mumbai resident.

Ankul Barar, who lives in Delhi, said,

“If broadcasters are going to air ads then, since we pay a premium on these channels, we may as well have just one ad break in one hour —like when we go to watch a film in a cinema hall.”

Shailaja Bajpai in Bangalore is angry at the thought of ads interrupting her viewing on channels she pays more for. Still, she spends most of her time on Discovery HD, which plans to remain ad free.

“Discovery HD content is entirely different from programming on Discovery in standard definition. The HD feed is not meant to carry ads,”

said Rajiv Bakshi, vice-president, marketing, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

Other channels aren’t planning to keep ads away from HD.

Media experts said broadcasters are also trying to recover their investments in setting up HD feeds, which cost more to transmit as they occupy greater bandwidth. Besides that, HD programming is also more costly to make.

(courtesy: Aminah Sheikh & Mint)