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Good year for DTH satellite but future remains mixed
Despite increasing pressure on margins, the number of direct to home (DTH) satellite subscribers is expected to pass the 217 million mark by 2019 according to research by NSR.

The new report, Global Direct-to-Home (DTH) Markets, 3rd Edition, shows that the DTH market is showing signs of maturity as developed economies reach saturation after analogue switchovers. Furthermore, developing economies are increasing their subscriber numbers.

The survey found that by the end of 2009, a total of 113 DTH operators carried TV services to over 130 million subscribers, an increase of 14% compared to 2009. Such growth resulted in the industry generating $70 billion in subscription revenue at a blended ARPU of $45. Demand for over 850 transponders maintained DTH applications as the single largest satellite bandwidth consumer.

Yet even though there was such growth in the year, NSR expects subscriber growth in the next year to move further away from developed economies towards South Asia and Eastern Europe. For example, the North American market is said to be showing signs of slowing down when it comes to DTH subscriber additions. In addition, Scandinavian providers are losing subscribers to competitive platforms; operators in the Middle East are emerging from a major consolidation; those in Central and Eastern Europe are seen to be heading towards a similar end in a struggle for profitability.

The response to premium services such as HD and DVRs is shown as polarised even further with the US and UK accounting for nearly 80% of premium subscribers.

Analysing the report, Senior Analyst, Prashant Butani said: "The Pay TV industry as a whole is becoming extremely competitive, be it over-the-top television in North America, digital terrestrial television in Europe or low cost DTH platforms in Africa and India. As far as subscriber growth is concerned, the balance of power has shifted further East with countries like Poland, Russia and India at the forefront. Financially, operators are being forced to rely on advertising and value added services, which will result in considerable pressure on margins."

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