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Slowdown an upside for DTH industry
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The slowdown has had a positive impact on the direct-to-home TV industry as consumers have started controlling their entertainment bills by not visiting movie theatres but sticking to their television sets at home.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s report presented on April 1, the DTH market was at 11.1 million consumers at the end of last December. Industry sources say this has now grown to close to 13.5 million.

Since early 2008, the industry has been adding about 3 lakh subscribers a month. However, it currently adds seven to eight lakh subscribers a month on an average, says Mr Ajai Puri, Director and CEO, Bharti Airtel DTH.

“During July, August and September in 2008, the DTH industry was adding six lakh subscribers a month. But it crossed the one-million-a-month mark in October, November and December when the impact of the slowdown was actually being felt on the economy,” adds Mr Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV.

The company currently has 5 million subscribers and expects to reach 7.5 million subscribers by the end of current year.

Part of the reason is the “low and affordable” entry prices, with players offering freebies to attract subscribers. A number of value-added services such as ‘movie on demand’, matrimonial match-making, tuitions are on offer. India has over 130 million TV homes and close to 14 million are being added every year. Of this, 97 million are cable & satellite homes. “The entry of multiple operators too, has created much greater awareness of the service which is now seen as a technology which is also simple to use,” says Mr Kapoor.

Dish TV has equal distribution of subscribers in urban and rural markets. “The cable-dry and cable-frustrated rural markets have been our strength as we launched our service first in these markets,” he says.

According to Mr Kapoor, DTH will continue to lead in terms of growth due to better awareness, ease of installation and independence from the cable operators. The segment is expected to grow at over 30 per cent a year.

By 2015, DTH will enjoy at least 40 per cent share of the C&S market. Digital cable will have 40 per cent and analogue cable will follow with 20 per cent, he says.

Another recent entrant in the market, Reliance Big TV, has garnered over 1.5 million subscribers in less than a year. Mr Sanjay Behl, CEO of the company, says that the industry would also look at “monetising some of the services to ensure multiple revenue streams”.

Tata Sky has consistently seen a rise in its subscriber base, which crossed the 3.5-million mark in March. “We have been witnessing a healthy growth. Our aim is to cross the 8-million mark in the next three years,” says Mr Vikram Mehra, Chief Marketing Officer, Tata Sky.

Sun Direct, a 80:20 joint venture between the Maran family and the Astro Group of Malaysia, which initially launched its services in Tamil Nadu in December 2007 and began its pan-India roll out in September 2008, has secured 3.1 million subscribers so far, says Mr Tony D’Silva, Chief Operating Officer.

He says, this year even March, April and May, which are usually called slack months when the entertainment sector registers a slow growth due to exams, the DTH industry witnessed a tremendous growth.

“We added close to two lakh subscribers month on month.”

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