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Travelling by train? Railways will soon offer you TV shows, movies

Shine Jacob/New Delhi 20 Mar 17 | 09:18 AM

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If you are passionate about television (TV) serials and movies, you needn’t worry about missing them while you are travelling. The Indian Railways is inching closer to the dream of providing entertainment directly on your personal devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, while you are on trains and at railway stations. 

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The ministry of railways is set to invite bids for content on demand (CoD) and rail radio services, to be provided for travellers in April. The CoD initiative will include streaming video content such as TV serials, movies, short videos, kids’ shows and devotional content; streaming audio such as movie songs, regional songs, and devotional music; and providing electronic newspapers, gaming and educational content. 

According to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), through CoD on trains and at stations, the railways sees an overall infotainment market of around Rs 2,277 crore in three years’ time. The infotainment sectors for the railways include radio, video, digital music and digital gaming. The report says the interested parties might include content owners such as Eros Entertainment, Balaji Productions and Shemaroo Entertainment, and content aggregators like Radio Mirchi, Fever FM, Hungama and Bindass. 

Major telecom firms, internet service providers and players in the offline streaming market — such as Vodafone, Idea, Airtel, PressPlay TV, Moving Talkies, Dwingloo, Fropcorn, TouringTalkies, MyFreeTV, Zonk and CloudPlay — are expected to show interest. “Bids will be invited for non-fare initiatives like CoD. We are expecting active participation from all the major industry players. CoD contracts will be awarded for 10 years. Bids for app-based cab services will also be invited by May," said an official close to the development. The railways had set up a non-fare revenue directorate last year headed by Executive Director R P Thakur.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu had launched the non-fare revenue policy in January this year. 

The policy includes providing radio and video content through WiFi in stations and on trains, leasing spaces on platforms to automated teller machines, giving outdoor spaces for installing advertising hoardings and billboards, and selling the branding of rights of trains and stations to fast-moving consumer goods and other companies. The railways is expecting an overall revenue of Rs 16,000-20,000 crore through non-fare initiatives in the next 10 years. It is planning to implement CoD and rail radio on 30 per cent of the trains in the first year, 60 per cent of the trains in the second year and on all trains by the third year. According to the railways, audio and video content services are set to be provided in all trains and video content on all stations in a phased manner.

According to the BCG report, for providing offline content, the expense per coach will come to as low as around Rs 38,000. On the other hand, for content streamed through the internet, the cost to set up the infrastructure will come to around Rs 25 lakh per coach. The railways will also set up a non-fare revenue evaluation committee to monitor the projects.

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