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App escape from TV blackout

- Screencast saviour when cable ditches at prime time

Jan. 24: Adipto Mitra, 23, is a sports enthusiast who loves to watch football, cricket and F1 in high-definition on a large flat-screen TV in his Gariahat home. He does so without having either a cable TV or a DTH (direct-to-home) connection.

Arsenal fan D. Chatterjee has a cable connection in his Salt Lake home but doesn't fret when STAR Sports suddenly goes off his service provider's beam. All he does is pick up his mobile phone, flick a few touch-screen buttons and Alexis Sanchez is back on his TV screen.

Mobile apps and screencasting devices are freeing Calcuttans from the shackles of channel blackouts. Several mobile and tablet apps - Hotstar, JioTV, SonyLiv, Amazon Prime Video, Ditto TV, Ozee, Yupp TV, Voot and Netflix, to name a few - enable viewers to watch Indian TV channels and specific programmes over the Web.

"I recently bought a screencasting device to mostly watch cricket and football. I had already been using apps like Hotstar to watch EPL and cricket matches. Now I am able to watch the action on my TV at no extra cost. I feel liberated from disputes involving broadcasters, MSOs and cable operators," said Adipto, an entrepreneur.

Thanks to easily available and affordable high-speed Internet, live streaming of content is so smooth that many don't miss cable TV anymore. For those who prefer the large-screen experience, a screencasting device like Google Chromecast (Rs 3,399) in conjunction with an app provides a viewing experience not much different from conventional television.

Once a screencasting device is plugged into a TV (usually through an HDMI port, which can be found on most flat-screen TVs) and a power source, it can connect with the mobile phone over Wi-Fi or even Bluetooth.

The first step is identifying the right app(s). To watch premium content, one may have to pay a monthly subscription. The other expense is mobile data, for which high-speed broadband with a router at home is the easy fix.

For Chatterjee, screencasting was the saviour during the 10-day blackout of STAR India channels on the Manthan beam."I used Google Chromecast and Hotstar to watch English Premier League matches. I was unaffected by the Manthan blackout. This is a way out for those suffering the whims of the cable industry," he said.

STAR India had blocked Manthan earlier this month over pending dues exceeding Rs 22 crore. There had been a similar blackout of STAR India channels last July.

In mid-November, Hathway removed STAR Sports Select 1 and STAR Sports Select 2, which show the EPL, from its HD pack without any intimation.

While screencasting is still not widespread, thousands of Calcuttans, especially youngsters, use apps to watch TV programmes on their mobile phones. Techie Sourav Debnath, 22, watches movies and news while commuting from his home in Sodepur to his Sector V office, a journey of two hours.

Adipto found out recently that his mother was sharing his Wi-Fi signal to watch Koffee with Karan on Hotstar on her mobile. "I was watching the first ODI between India and England and the signal became weak. That's how I caught the culprit," he said with a laugh.

According to online aggregator App Annie, 50 million users in India made 145 million downloads on Hotstar in December alone.

Have you used an app to watch TV content? Tell [email protected]


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