Under the global influence of News Corp. proficiency in direct-to-home television DTH amenity, Space TV, the 80:20 joint venture between the Tata's and News Corporation is finally gearing up for its India launch within the next six months time. The five-year project disbursement outlay has been hiked to RS 2,000 crore from the initial RS 1,600 crore.

Vikram Kaushik, CEO, Space TV, says, "Our plans as of today are to launch Space TV DTH services from April 01, 2006. Space TV is targeted at the middle class as a mass market service that provides an enhanced digital TV viewing experience. We are still doing research on the pricing and over the next couple of months, we will finalise the rates."

"Neither of the two existing DTH services in India offers what a real direct-to-home television experience should be. People are ending up purchasing a sub-optimal service," Kaushik said. Though he adds Space TV is ready to face any type of competition from Zee's Dish TV and also from Doordarshan's DD Direct, which plans to add 100 more channels by the time Space TV is launched.

Space TV is not happy with some regulatory, policy decisions that apply to the Indian DTH scenario. These include the 'must provide' clause relating to mandatory sharing of all content between broadcasters and platforms, as well as the stipulation on interpretable set top boxes. "We believe that a review of the mandatory clause is imperative. Otherwise there will be no exclusivity of content and viewers will only get plain vanilla services," Kaushik added.

On interoperability, which means that a consumer should be able to use the same set top box even when switching service providers, Space TV has suggested an alternative. "It is not done anywhere. It is impractical and costly. Instead of technological interoperability, it would be better to offer a commercial alternative like rental, exchange schemes," Kaushik added.

The vast expertise and the domain knowledge gained from Newscorp's DTH operations in countries like the United Kingdom (BSkyB), Australia (Foxtel), Italy (Sky Italia), Brazil (Sky Brasil) and in the US (DIRECTV) will help Space TV in India, which is currently working on a service bouquet to offer movies, cricket, interactive services and serials built around the theme of high quality digital picture and sound. Foxtel is the 50:25:25 venture between Telstra, Kerry Packer's PBL, and News Corporation.