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DTH cos may charge premium rates from advertisers in '10
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Operators may ask for more after studying the viewing habits of subscribers

Advertisers may have to pay 10-15 per cent extra for using the direct-to-home (DTH) platform by early next year. Five of the six DTH players have begun measuring the viewing habits of their 17 million-plus subscribers and plan to monetise it by offering the information to advertisers for target-advertising.

This means, by early next year, DTH operators like Dish TV or Tata Sky will be able to know exactly how much time their subscribers spent on any particular channel or interactive services on a particular day, an information that will develop interest among companies like car makers, computer manufacturers, FMCG or banking and insurance companies.

Sources in media agencies say once the viewing habits of the DTH subscribers in metros and semi-urban towns are understood, operators may ask for additional revenues from the broadcasters or advertisers. “Currently, we do not know which DTH subscriber is watching what during the prime time band (7 pm to 11 pm) or late nights. Once we get a fix on that, the information will be critical for marketers and advertisers to help them target their advertising accordingly,” says a top digital media executive of a leading media agency.

In order to gauge the DTH subscribers, Audience Measurement and Analytics (aMap), an overnight ratings agency, has already roped in Tata Sky and Dish TV, the two leading DTH operators commanding 70 per cent of the DTH market. aMap is also close to ink deal with Reliance Big TV and Airtel Digital TV, the DTH arms of Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel, respectively. To do this, aMap will employ a proprietary format independent content identification technology which measures all types of interaction of a DTH subscriber with the television, be it digital broadcast, use of interactive service or time-shifted viewing.

“We will be able to provide vital information of DTH subscribers, including time spent on each channels, most-watched channels, ratings and reach, among other parameters. We will also be able to measure the reach, frequency and time spent on the DTH-interactive services,” says Joseph Eapen, CEO, aMap.

Industry experts say this move may open up a new revenue stream for the cash-strapped DTH industry that is estimated to collectively lose over Rs 10 crore a day due to heavy subsidy on set-top boxes coupled with stagnant average revenue per user.

In a statement, Tata Sky CMO Vikram Mehra says: “With a subscriber base of 4.5 million, Tata Sky has played a significant role in the growth and development of the DTH sector that is poised to touch 40-50 million by 2015. At the stage that the industry is in, we think it’s time that efforts are made to understand and measure the audience viewing habits of these viewers better and are excited to associate with India’s leading TV Audience Measurement System, aMap.”

Currently, even TAM Media, the leading audience measurement agency, also offers DTH measurement data but various DTH players feel the aMap data will help them better with their interactive services as the results will be instant. aMap is said to be offering affordable pricing to these DTH operators. “The pricing is weighted on their subscriber base. This makes it affordable for a new entrant as well as established players,” says Eapen.

aMap plans to approach the various media agencies as well once it arrives at a price for them.

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