Anil Ambani partners Microsoft for IPTV

    MUMBAI: Anil Ambani owned Reliance Communications Ltd. and Bill Gates’ Microsoft Corp have inked a strategic partnership to roll out Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service in India, which will be powered by the award-winning Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV software platform.

    The contract between the two is estimated at $500 million. The announcement was made by Reliance Communications chairman Anil D Ambani and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Reliance Communications shall have the exclusive deployment right for the platform in India.

    Reliance’s IPTV service, powered by the Microsoft Mediaroom platform, will allow Reliance to deliver entirely new, connected and personalized TV experiences for Indian consumers, with several advanced features, such as video on demand (VOD), digital video recording (DVR), instant channel changing, and personal media sharing.

    IPTV subscribers will be able to watch popular standard definition (SD) content as well as high-definition (HD) content — for the first time in India — at the click of a button from the comfort of their homes, and enjoy a connected entertainment experience that will soon allow them to watch their favorite shows on their TV or PC. The service will be launched by fiscal end (March 2008).

    “As consumers today are becoming more sophisticated, they are demanding more compelling and personalized entertainment to suit their individual needs and preferences. Until now, TV has been a broadcast, ‘one-size-fits-all’ experience. Backed by powerful Microsoft Mediaroom software, IPTV promises to offer our subscribers more choice, control and convenience, and at the end of the day, a unique and more satisfying user experience. We’re excited to partner with Microsoft to unlock the potential of television and offer Indian subscribers the very best TV and connected entertainment experiences,” Ambani said.

    “Reliance is about to change the way consumers experience television. TV is the only major digital device that has been left out of the networking revolution, and Microsoft and Reliance are now making the TV a first-class citizen in the connected entertainment landscape. By connecting the TV to an intelligent two-way network and adding powerful software, new connected and personalized experiences will become possible here in India,” Ballmer said.

    The IPTV service will also target an area with a great degree of ambiguity, as far as TV content and advertising goes in India. There is, at present, no clear indication of how much of the content and advertising is really reaching the target audience and what the returns for the investments are. A two-way interactive medium can rectify this.

    “In addition to the obvious benefit that will come to the consumers, this offering will also benefit the media industry at large. Whether it is the content providers, the platform owners or the advertisers, they will get better value for their money. This is critical for the long-term growth and sustenance of the television industry,” said Microsoft India chairman Ravi Venkatesan.

    “Reliance Communications is well poised to leverage its next-gen optical fiber network to unleash the ‘Connected Digital Home’ phenomena. This revolutionary new IPTV will give viewers complete control over home entertainment as well as Internet-enabled information and communication services on an ‘always-on’ basis,” said Reliance president of home and enterprise business Prakash Bajpai.