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Cable unplugged: DTH subscribers set to double
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The Indian DTH sector is expected to see a 100 per cent growth over the next two years as subscriber base is expected to more than double from the present 16 million to over 32 million DTH connections by 2011.

A key driver of this growth will be the shift from cable operator service to DTH service, driven by the increasing number of LCD and LED television sets in households as prices of LED ô LCD television sets are expected to head south.

With nearly 35 per cent drop in LCD prices expected over the next two years, these television sets will emerge as a preferred option over cathode ray tube TV sets. While the LCD wave will be predominantly urban-led, a gradual shift to tier-2 and tier-3 cities is expected.

With the adoption of LCD TV gaining prominence, the value expectation of the viewers will head north. The viewer expectation will be proportionate to functional as well as content propositions. With cable operator services still being largely analog-based, consumers will shift to DTH services offering digital clarity, enhanced audio quality and a variety of content options which a cable operator cannot offer.

The customers’ preference for DTH services will be driven by the direct functional benefits as well as content propositions offered by various DTH operators.

DTH operators today offer viewers a digital medium of audio video compared to the analog-led transmission at the local cable operator. The technological benefit offered by a DTH service offers better quality which the analog-led cable service cannot match. India is fast heading towards a revolution in high-definition, both in terms of the hardware and software.

While a lot of channels are gearing up to beam high-definition content, television manufacturers like Sony, LG, Samsung, Philips and others have already started to sell HD TVs. Only MPEG 4 technology used by DTH operators can support HD content. Reliance BIG TV, Airtel DTH were among the early adopters of MPEG-4 technology for a pan-India national service.

Moreover, DTH is also evolving as a much personalised form of entertainment. On pricing, the DTH operator offers its an opportunity to choose and pay for only those channels he wishes to watch. This is enabled by offering recharges across multiple price points depending on the number of channels one would like to switch on. This is in complete contrast to a cable operator’s service where the viewer is forced to pay a monthly subscription with no choice on the number of channels or the service quality.

For instance, Reliance BIG TV showcases 237 national and regional channels, of which 21 are dedicated to movie on demand content. Besides offering a choice of the recently-released films on its PPV platform for Rs 50, Reliance BIG TV’s monthly recharges start at Rs 127 in contrast to a cable operator’s monthly fee of around Rs 300.

Moreover, DTH operators like Airtel, Dish and Reliance BIG TV also offer their customers a choice of convenient payment options apart from recharge coupons to credit card, online, IVR, SMS and such others which are not offered by cable operators.

Secondly, unlike cable, DTH offers an array of features including electronic programming guide, personalised favorites’ list, on-screen notifier for latest updates of new movies with date and price, Mini Zapper Guide that summarises the current on-air programme across various channels and future listings.

The cable operators have not been able to match the content proposition offered by a DTH service. Leading the pack is a bouquet of interactive services offered by a DTH operator as a value-addition to the subscriber. These interactive services enhance the entertainment options to viewers and enhance their overall experience and the DTH brand.

The DTH players are planning to drive early adoption of the next wave of DTH revolution.

Initially, consumers wanted to watch the latest movies on PPV platform, but going by the trend in the DTH industry many subscribers are opting for non-film content. These players are in talks with various global content providers to introduce genres like action sports, international and Indian music, TV shows, exclusive videos / documentaries on its platform. In contrast, a cable operator lacks the bandwidth to offer such niche content sourced globally.

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