As DTH (direct to home) operators seek to expand their customer base by converting more homes to the satellite dish, they are finding children to be one of their biggest endorsers. Most of the interactive services offered by DTH operators are games and edutainment targeted at children and adolescents. They also offer channel packages especially designed for this segment.
There is also reason to believe that children prefer DTH to cable as they get the kind of interactivity that they are used to on the personal computer and the mobile.
Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky, couldn't agree more. He shares an interesting piece of information that speaks a lot for the argument. "Whenever we give a demo for using the set top box, we make sure that a child is present," says Mehra. He adds that not only are children big influencers on the use of advanced technology, they are also more likely to share their experience with peers.
Ajai Puri, director and chief executive officer, DTH at Bharti Airtel, agrees, "Children are far more aware of technology and options of entertainment today and our internal research shows that they influence the purchase decision of the household when it comes to TV viewing."
The services on DTH for children are plenty, and for a change, parents no longer fear them watching too much TV.
Salil Kapoor, chief executive officer, Dish TV, says, "An increasing number of Indians are now active gamers and our gaming portal helps fulfil the diverse gaming needs of each member of the family." The company is planning a 'kids' fest' for the summer break, details of which will be announced soon.
Airtel digital TV is currently running a movie festival where animated movies have been made available in its pay-per-view (PPV) channel. It also has tutorials for students and a game zone on offer.
Tata Sky has services such as Actve Stories (with stories from Panchatantra and Jataka Tales), Actve Wizkids (lessons for pre-schoolers) and Actve Learning (quiz based education for older children).
Among the others, Big TV and Sun Direct, too, have special packages and games for children.
As they realise the importance of connecting with children, some DTH operators are moving beyond the TV screen into schools. While the idea of setting up TV screens in schools seems surprising, schools are actually welcoming them as long as the content is educative.
Tata Sky has embarked on an ambitious school contact programme which reaches 823 schools in 26 cities.
Mehra explains, "Since the PC penetration is low, this is an ideal platform to impart quality education to pre-schoolers. We have a panel of 50 teachers who are involved in creating content for the interactive channel." The teachers continue to add new content to the curriculum. Tata Sky provides regional and educative channels to the schools as well, but no GECs (general entertainment channels).
Airtel digital TV has also recently added the interactive educational channel Topper to its services. "We plan to begin a school contact programme as part of this tie up," informs Puri.
The channel is aimed at students of classes 9 to 12. The pay service is available at a fee of Rs 1,000 for a year.
It is estimated that children make up 15-20 per cent of the DTH viewership. More importantly, they end up spending more time on TV by using interactive services. On Tata Sky, for instance, the time spent by children is about 66 minutes every day.
Not only is this a good opportunity for DTH operators to expand reach, but also for advertisers to connect with young customers. Recently, Microsoft Xbox 360 Arcade ran a promotion on Dish TV on its interactive channel. A promotion for the film Hannah Montana was done on Tata Sky with exclusive videos for fans.
As with other products which stand for a better standard of living, pester power seems to be paying off for the DTH industry as well.