There was a time just three decades ago, when all Indians could watch was Doordarshan. From that monopoly to now, where about 600 TV channels are showing on your direct-to-home (DTH) broadcast screens, things have come so far that the business is now shifting to convenience. On top of that, the Internet is also throwing up videos by the thousands everyday on sites such as YouTube, and Yahoo.
A couple of months ago, I had said that content discovery is a new industry. I found validation last week when I interacted with a couple of startups. One is iDubba, founded by two 27-year-old engineers from Meerut, Rabi Gupta and Ashish Kumar, who have been funded by angel investors who include Rajan Anandan, the managing director of Google India.
Now, iDubba (www.idubba.com) is a website which will increasingly be also available as a smartphone or tablet application (app). It will let you set alerts for your favourite programmes by SMS, share and recommend programmes over social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and let producers interact with viewers - and more important, generate viewership “leaders” who shape viewing patterns (think of them like book reviewers).
The most interesting part is that iDubba's intelligent software also helps you discover programmes by genres and tries to guess your tastes and cater to it through a combination of software and social media recommendations.
Noida-based iDubba competes with Mumbai-based What's On India (http://www.whatsonlindia.com), a pioneering electronic programming guide on the Web which has also introduced social media interfaces. There are also websites such as Telechakkar.com that act as Internet hubs for TV fans.
Gupta says iDubba is more suited for India because cable and DTH TV is much hotter here than Internet TV, which is being championed through smart TV sets and emerging Apple TV and Google TV initiatives.
Personally I think even in India, digital convergence is moving faster. While most TV channels now upload their shows to YouTube for their own channels, there are also startups such as Bangalore-based iStream (www.istream.com) that are promoting premium TV content on the Web through partnerships with channels. Sarita Pandey, iStream's programming head, told me on Twitter that their model is advertising supported.
These startups, along with smart TVs and broadband connections, are collectively ushering in “social TV” in India. The best part is that when viewers go social, there may not be a need for clunky sampling procedures like the TAM’s television rating point (TRP) system to measure viewership. That's another story.