Technology

Free TVs with Reliance JioFiber Broadband Service

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance JioFiber broadband service comes with a high-definition television and set-top box.

Jio GigaFiber plans: According to a research, country’s video-on-demand market could grow to $5 billion by 2023 from $500 million last year.

Asia’s richest man is handing out TVs to hook users on movies and entertainment shows via internet. The tycoon is wedging into a business teeming with players from rival mobile carriers to Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

Mr Ambani’s JioFiber broadband service, scheduled to start Thursday across India, comes with a high-definition television and set-top boxes at no charge for annual lifetime subscribers. The offer by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., the tycoon’s wireless powerhouse, includes subscriptions to most premium streaming services with prices starting from Rs. 700 (about $10) a month.

The fiber-TV salvo comes days after Jio formally swept into the No. 1 spot for wireless services after free calls and cheap data lured hundreds of millions of subscribers and left rivals Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. struggling under mounting debt. Airtel, backed by tycoon Sunil Mittal, and billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Idea are also trying to lure users by offering access to TV and movie content.

Telecom carriers around the world are adding entertainment content to their offerings as a way to compete for users and add revenue, especially in markets where the number of mobile subscriptions has reached saturation. In India, video-on-demand growth itself is explosive, according to researcher Boston Consulting Group.

The market could leap to $5 billion by 2023 from $500 million last year, BCG estimates. The boom has set Bollywood production houses, carriers and streaming services racing to feed demand for TV shows and movies and compete for users. Paying subscribers will probably rise to as many as 50 million, while users of advertising-supported video-on-demand will reach 600 million, BCG predicts.

To gain the upper hand in the streaming business against well-funded competitors like Netflix, Amazon.com and Walt Disney Co.’s Hotstar, Jio will need to go beyond just offering cheaper access via bundled services, said Shailesh Kapoor, founder and chief executive officer at Mumbai-based consultancy Ormax Media Pvt.

So far, the telecommunications company has relied on alliances with TV and film producers to provide content for its service bundles. JioFiber will also include movies that can be seen by subscribers on the same day they debut in cinemas, Mr Ambani said in a speech laying out the plan on August 12. That part of the service won’t start until the middle of next year, he said.

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