Dec 20, 2009


Answer a simple question (by SMS) and win a free trip to Singapore........................"
"Poonam Dhillon ko bachane ke liye SMS Karen POD................................."
"Is gaane ko apna caller tune banana ke liye SMS Karen ............................."
Do these sound familiar? I bet they do. It is amazing how so many cable TV channels (each one of them worse than the other*) and shows from the weird to bizarre are flourishing in India. Given the fact that rural India, or most parts of it do not have access to cable or satellite TV. Does proliferation of Cell phones have anything to do with it?
Be it a news channel, a sports channel, music channel or any other TV channel, you have that omnipresent TV presenter / host, trying to persuade you into sending an SMS on some or the other pretext. And mind you, these SMS messages are three to twelve times more expensive than the ordinary ones. Be that as it may, a host of entrepreneurs seem to be making a killing through SMS messaging.
Apart from subscriber to subscriber messaging, stock quotes, Banking services, Cricket / Sports updates, ring tones, caller tunes, jokes, travel services, astrology, ................., (the list is endless)a host of other services are all available through SMS, at a premium of course.
Telecom service providers are laughing all the way to the bank, and TV channels share a substantial part of the revenue for encouraging morons like us to send ridiculous SMS messages.
Doordarshan India in the era of Satellite and Cable Television has become passé. Now we are in the era of soaps, mega soaps, reality shows and talent hunting (Indian Idol and its cousins). A year or two back I did not know what a reality show was. That was till the infamous row between Jade Goody and our very own Shilpa Shetty in the British reality show 'Big Brother'. And now all that I see on the Idiot box, while channel surfing are reality shows.
Let's take a look at the Telecom revolution in India. Just about a couple of decades back, maybe a bit more, the fastest means of communication available to the common man was the Telegram. And the cheapest was the Post Card. Telephones were the exclusive privilege of the high and mighty. It would take a few years and connections at the right places, not to mention greasing of palms of God alone knows how many peons and clerks, to get a new Telephone connection in those times. Liberalisation of the Indian economy post 1991, took care of that. And by mid nineties we had private cellular operators working in select cities. To use a Cellular phone in that era would have made a big hole in one's pocket. Remember, incoming calls were charged at the same rate as outgoing calls, not to mention the astronomical rates. And ten years hence, a paan or a rickshaw wallah has two cell phones. Imagine, in these inflationary times, the cost of usage dropping from Rs 16 to Rs 18 per minute of air time in 1998, to a single paisa per second in 2009. That, for the more mathematically inclined is a drop of more than 96 percent. That is unprecedented and unparalleled negative inflation.
Is there a parallel in Cable TV? Well the number of TV channels has increased from a mere four in 1992 to more than 400 and counting in 2009. Where at one point of time, it was unthinkable that a full time news channel was commercially viable, we have today, not one, but scores of news channels on air. The rates have not crashed like they have in Telephony, but they have not skyrocketed like Dal(Pulses) either.
Coming back to our topic, the Number of TV programmes based on SMS messages for public at large is rising by the day. One forecast predicts that SMS volumes would reach 191.6 billion in India by 2013 and the country would have more than 750 million mobile connections (almost 75 percent penetration assuming a population of a billion). Out of these if only a tiny five percent use SMS for services available every day, at current rates(Re1/- per SMS#) it would mean a turnover of Rs 3.75 Crores per day. And it would be pertinent to point out here that current margins on SMS are more than 70 percent. Aren't these figures mind boggling?
Small wonder then, that there is such a race on for Television programmes and reality shows from weird to bizarre and Top actors including the bollywood shehenshah, Big B himself queuing up to rake in the moolah.
* No offence meant to anyone.
# Varies from operator to operator.

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