In a draft RFP, Prasar Bharati sought industry feedback for the selection of bidders for ‘design, development, implementation, operations and maintenance’ of its OTT platform
The open platform will aim to offer ad-supported video-on-demand (VoD) multi-screen facility for end users in up to 4K resolution
The proposed state-backed OTT platform will also offer in-app messaging
Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has floated a draft tender as it looks to create its own over-the-top (OTT) streaming platform.
“Prasar Bharati intends to design, develop, commission, operate and maintain an OTT platform for its content available and for the reach of all the citizens in India, even remotest village as well as global audience,” the public broadcaster said.
In a draft request for proposal (RFP) dated September 29, the state broadcaster sought industry feedback for the selection of bidders for ‘design, development, implementation, operations and maintenance’ of its OTT platform.
The last date for industry players to comment on the specifications ended on October 5, as per the draft proposal.
The open platform will aim to offer ad-supported video-on-demand (VoD) multi-screen facility for end users in up to 4K resolution. Users will be able to access the streaming platform on their mobiles or tablets to search, discover, and research content.
Besides, it would also offer a la carte feature where users can buy channels, packages and content, including shows and cricket tournaments. Prasar Bharati aims to build a platform that is scalable up to 10 Cr users and has all security features, as is the industry norm.
OTT App Or Messaging Platform?
A key takeaway of the draft is that the public broadcaster has sought a specific digital rights management system for the OTT platform in the draft tender.
“The proposed OTT solution shall include Digital Right Management (DRM) which shall be a highly scalable and reliable solution…. The proposed solution for DRM, shall be globally accepted by known content providers such as HBO, SONY, CNN, ESPN, Discovery, STAR India, NGC, etc. without any hesitation,” noted the draft proposal.
DRMs are used globally by companies to track and manage access to intellectual property via watermarks, embedded codes, among other tools. Once identified, the contentious pieces of content could then be taken down from other platforms.
While the proposal is still at draft stage, the enforcement of content copyright could pose a new set of challenges for the public broadcaster. Offering sports content a la carte may clash with a 2017 Supreme Court ruling that reinforced the rights of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) to stream cricket matches.
However, the SC also acknowledged Section 3 of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007 that notes that entities ought to share ‘live broadcasting signals’ of sporting events of ‘national importance’ with Prasar Bharati.
As such, the public broadcaster’s plans to enforce content copyright infringement might run into trouble as the BCCI may not be willing to forego its digital cricketing rights if Prasar Bharati decides to stream matches for free.
In addition, the proposed state-backed OTT platform will also offer in-app messaging which will bring it directly under the ambit of messaging apps. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released a consultation paper on regulating OTT messaging apps and it remains to be seen if any such prospective regulation would also be extended to the state-backed streaming platform.
In addition, telecom operators have also actively pitched for a revenue-sharing agreement with OTT platforms, largely based on the spectrum they consume. If the state-backed streaming service gathers steam and if any such revenue sharing plan is implemented, it might as well pose additional cost dimensions for Prasar Bharati.
Among other things, Prasar Bharati also plans to offer targeted advertising on its proposed platform which will bring additional compliance burden under data protection laws.
As industry stakeholders chime in with comments, it remains to be seen if the union government moves ahead with the plan to have a state-backed OTT platform even as established player Disney is looking to offload its India operations, including the streaming platform.