Pay TV-DTH gains: Airtel leads subs race as Jio could pose challenges

BENGALURU: Last quarter (Q3-16, quarter ended 31 December 2015), we at www.indiantelevision.com had said: Contrary to expectations that the sunset date of 31 December 31, 2015 (Q3-16 in financial terms in India) would rake in good numbers for the DTH industry for Q3-15, results declared by three of the seven players in the country did notshow much of a change. At that time, though Airtel Digital TV and Videocon d2h had both shown a small spike in subscriber additions between Q2-2016 and Q3-2016, overall taking the combined addition in subscription numbers by all the three, the change was just 3.59per cent. In the case of the third player-Dish TV, it witnessed the lowest growth over a five quarter period starting Q3-2015 until Q3-16 at 2.19 per cent.

We’d said further that Chrome figures for January 2016 revealed that the DTH industry is a major beneficiary of DAS phase III. If that is the case, then DTH players should report even better numbers for Q4-16 and FY-16. Did they?And what will be the fate of the carriage industry once Jio has been rolled out completely across the country, along with low cost devices? Jio presents a huge disruption…. But more on that later. Lets look at the numbers for the DTH industry…

Combined subscriber additions for the annual period ended 31 March 2016 (FY-16) vis-à-vis the previous year (FY-15)grew by 12.3 percent of the three pay-direct to home (pay-DTH) operators in India whose financial and operational data is available in the public domain.  This subscriber growth rate was however a little less than half that these entities had in FY-15 at 24.7 percent as compared to FY-14. As indicated above, the three operators in this paper in alphabetical order are Airtel’s Digital TV segment (Airtel DTH), the Essel group’s Dish TV Limited (Dish TV) and the Videocon group’s Saurav Dhoot led Videocon d2h.

Among the three, Airtel DTH added more net subscribers in absolute numbers in FY-16 than in FY-15, Dish TV added approximately the same number of net subscribers in both FY-15 and FY-16, while Videocon d2h saw slightly lower absolute net subscribers increment in FY-16 as compared to FY-15. Airtel DTH added 55.6 percent more subscribers in FY-16 – 16.52 lakh to reach net subscriber base of 117.52 lakh as compared to 10.62 lakh in FY-15; Dish TV added 15 lakh subscribers in the current year as well as in the previous year; Dish TV’s subscriber base was 145 lakh in FY-16; Videocon d2h added 16.8 lakh subscribers in FY-16 to reach a subscriber base of 118.6 lakh as compared to 17.4 lakh subscriber additions in FY-15. The above numbers are based on the financial results/investor presentations reported by the three DTH entities. Figures C1, C2 and C3 below indicate the quarterly subscriber base of these three players from Q2-15 until Q1-17.

Let us see where the three pay DTH players considered in this paper stand in the Indian DTH eco-system

As per data obtained from a government website, the total number of active DTH subscribers in India was 5,59,81,376 as on 31 December 2015. The number of active DTH subscribers of Airtel was 1,13,43,424 with a market share of 20.26 percent of the total number of active DTH subscribers in the entire country;  the number of active DTH subscribers of Dish TV was 1,39,52,866 with a market share of 24.92 percent of the total number of active DTH subscribers in the entire country. Among all the pay DTH Operators in India, Dish TV had the largest number of DTH subscribers as on 31 December 2015 and was the market leader.

The number of active DTH subscribers of Reliance was 17,86,705 as on 31 December 2015 and its market share was 3.19 percent of the total number of active DTH subscribers in the country. Among all the DTH Operators in India, Reliance had the smallest number of DTH subscribers.

The number of active DTH subscribers of Sun Direct was 56,98,544 as on 31 December 2015 and Sun direct had a market share of 10.18 percent; the number of active DTH subscribers of Tata Sky was 1,20,45,410 which had a market share of Tat Sky was 21.52 percent; the number of active DTH subscribers of Videocon D2H was 1,11,54,427 and its market share was 19.93 percent of the total number of active DTH subscribers in India. Please refer to Fig A below

Assuming that the proportions remained approximately the same at the end of fiscal 2016, this means that the three operators in this paper represented 65.11 percent or almost two thirds of the Indian pay-DTH universe. This can further be substantiated by TRAI data below.

As per TRAI data, the number of active DTH subscribers in the country increased by 25.5 lakh between Q3-16 and Q4-16. The combined subscription numbers reported in their financial reports by the three players in this paper have grown by 17.1 lakh or 67.02 percent of the total increase across the country. Hence it is safe to assume that the three players in this paper represent about two-thirds of the total pay-DTH subscribers in the country and it can be further assumed that their combined performances represent approximately the performance of the pay-DTH industry in India.

Besides the six pay DTH players mentioned above is Doordarshan’s (DD) FreeDish DTH service – the largest DTH player by far in terms of subscribers with an estimated 15 million or 1.5 crore subscribers in 2015 as per the KPMG-FICCI Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2016 (KPMG-FICCI M&E Report 2016) titled The Future: Now streaming. It must however be noted that an exact number for registered or active subscribers is not available since this is a free DTH service. Prasar Bharati’s chief executive officer Jawahar Sircar had said during an exclusive interview in June this year, “As the (FreeDish) antennas are available in the market (at a nominal one-time price ranging between Rs 3,000-4,000) and no monthly subscription is paid, it is difficult to know how many television households have FreeDish. This audit will become easier when we complete the process of encryption of FreeDish while keeping it free to air.

Exact figures may be difficult in our case as even the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India admits there is a gap between the number of active and registered subscribers of private DTH operators. But it is understood (from feedback from market and sale of antennas) that there are around 15 million households hooked to FreeDish.

In recent times, FreeDish has got some very good response from private TV channels...many of them, including the big names, want to hop onto FreeDish’s platform for wider reach of their products. We have plans to increase the number of FTA television channels on the platform so a consumer gets more choice.”

Has the pay DTH industry truly gained from DAS, and more specifically DAS phase-3?

DAS in the first three phases was to cover about 79 million (7.9 crore or 790 lakh) television households in India by 31 December 2015 as per the KPMG-FICCI M&E Report 2016. As per TRAI data, the number of registered DTH subscribers has grown 91.65 percent from 462.5 lakh as on 31 March 2012 to 886.4 lakh as on 31 March 2016. Active DTH subscribers have grown 57.4 percent from 371.9 lakh on 31 March 2014 to 585.3 lakh as on 31 March 2016. Complete rollout of DAS phase 3 had been delayed by litigation. The same can be expected for DAS phase 4.

The KPMG-FICCI M&E Report 2016 projects that the number of television homes in the country will increase by 10 million or 1 crore in 2016 to 170 million or 17 crore homes. The break-up of this 17 crore television households is 41 million or 4.1 crore analogue cable; 55 million or 5.5 crore each for Digital cable and pay DTH and; 19 million or 1.9 crore Free DTH. Please refer to figure B for the projected break-up. The report projects total DTH subscriber base of 7.4 crore including Fre


DAS phase 4 offers an even bigger opportunity – 81 million or 81.1 crore cable and satellite homes of which 52 million or 5.2 crore were digitised, leaving 39 million (3.9 crore) analogue cable homes as on 31 December 2015, the sunset date for DAS phase 3, as per the KPMG-FICCI M&E Report 2016. This is low hanging fruit for the DTH industry.

The KPMG-FICCI M&E Report 2016 says that the number of pay DTH subscribers has increased from 34 million or 3.4 crore in 2012 to 44 million or 4.4 crore in 2015, and projects 55 million or 5.5 crore pay DTH subscribers in 2016. December 31, 2016 is the sunset date for DAS phase 4, but the KPMG-FICCI M&E Report 2016 expects the roll-out to be complete only in December 2017. Taking this date into account, the KPMG-FICCI M&E Report 2016 projects 179 million or 17.9 crore television subscribers, with the pay DTH subscription base expected to reach 74 million or 7.4 crore.The report says that FreeDish subscribers will increase from 19 million (1.9 crore) in 2016 to 20 million (2 crore) in 2017. Please refer to the radar type chart in Figure B above.

A  Videocon d2h corporate presentation in March 2015 claimed that the active DTH subscriber market share was projected to grow from 32 percent in 2015 to 37 percent in 2019, with the active DTH revenue market share to grow from 41 percent to 47 percent during the same timeline.

So how have the three players gained?

Let us look at their financial performance and some of their operational matrices.

Airtel Digital TV (Airtel DTH)

Fig C1 below indicates the quarterly performance by Airtel DTH.


Let us look at Airtel DTH’s annual number comparison between FY-15 and FY-16. Revenue in year ended 31 March 2016 (FY-16) increased 17.8 per cent to Rs 2,917.8 crore as compared to Rs 2,475.9 crore in the previous year. Airtel’s DTH segment reported EBIT (Earnings before interest and tax) of Rs 184.3 crore (6.3 per cent operating margin) in FY-16 as compared to a negative EBIT of Rs 158.1 crore in FY-15.

Annual subscription numbers have been mentioned above. Average revenue per user (ARPU) increased to Rs 229 ascompared to Rs 214 in the corresponding quarter of last year. Airtel DTH reported a monthly subscriber churn of 0.8 per cent in Q4-16  (quarter ended 31 March 2016) as compared to a churn of 1 per cent for the corresponding quarter of last year and a slightly lower 0.7 per cent for the immediate trailing quarter.

DAS III has resulted in Airtel’s increasing the capex for its DTH segment for FY-16 by 40 per cent (Rs 313.8 crore) as compared to the previous year. The company’s capex spend in FY-16 was Rs 1,098 crore as compared to Rs 784.2 crore in FY-15. The company’s cumulative investments into Airtel DTH increased 20 per cent to Rs 6,490.6 crore in the current year as compared to Rs 5,410.9 crore in the previous year.

Performance in Q1-17

Airtel DTH added 4.24 lakh net subscribers for the first quarter ended 30 June 2016 (Q1-17) to bring its subscriber base to 121.9 lakh from 117.25 lakh in the previous quarter. Average revenue per user (ARPU) increased to Rs 233 from Rs 229 in the immediate trailing quarter. Airtel DTH reported a monthly subscriber churn of 0.8 percent in Q1-17, same as the churn in Q1-16 and Q4-16.

Revenue from Airtel’s DTH segment in Q1-17 increased 22.2 per cent to Rs 836.9 crore as compared to Rs 684.8 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous year.

Dish TV

Please refer to Figure C2 below for Dish TV’s quarterly performance

FY-16 was the second consecutive year that Dish TV reported growth across important financial and operational parameters including operating revenues (TIO), profit after tax (PAT) and subscription numbers. Last fiscal and quarter (year and quarter ended 31 March, 2015, FY-15 and Q4-15), this Essel Group DTH operator turned the corner with a consolidated profit after tax (PAT) of Rs 3.14 crore and Rs 34.94 crore (margin 4.8 per cent) respectively. The company followed this up with improved numbers for the subsequent two quarters of FY-16, and rendered a fait accompli of sorts in the final quarter with the largest ever subscription numbers add in a quarter in Q4-16, as if to reiterate – Profits are here to stay!. Dish TV plays the value game, rather than the ‘exclusivity’ that most other pay DTH players worth reckoning play.

Dish TV reported subscription revenue of Rs 2,827.5 crore in fiscal 2016. Operating revenue during the period increased to Rs 3,059.9 crore from Rs 2,687.9 crore in the previous year.

Dish TV reported PAT of Rs. 692.4 crore in FY-16, including deferred tax expense of Rs. 436 crore. EBIDTA in FY-16 increased 39.8 percent to Rs 1,024.9 crore from Rs 733.1 crore in FY-15.

ARPU in Q4-16 declined to Rs 174 from the Rs 179 reported in Q4-15, but increased from Rs 172 reported in Q3-16.

Performance in Q1-17

Dish TV reported addition of 4.02 lakh net subscribers for Q1-17. It closed the quarter with 149 lakh subscribers. Average revenue per user (ARPU) for Q1-17 remained the same year-over-year (y-o-y) and quarter-over-quarter (q-o-q) at Rs 174.

Dish TV reported 6.7 percent higher y-o-y subscription revenue of Rs 728.2 crore for Q1-17, as compared to Rs 682.8 crore. Operating revenue in Q1-17 increased 5.7 percent y-o-y to Rs 778.6 crore from Rs 736.7 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous year.

Dish TV reported PAT of Rs. 50.9 crore in Q1-17, down 24.6 percent as compared to Rs 54.2 crore in Q1-16. EBIDTA in Q1-17 increased 12.2 percent to Rs 264.6 crore from Rs 235.7 crore in Q1-16.

Videocon d2h

Please refer to Fig C3 below for Videocon d2h’s quarterly performance.

Revenue in FY-16 increased 22.2 percent to Rs 2,855.86 crore from Rs 2,337.71 crore in the previous year. Subscription and Activation revenue in FY-16 grew 26.4 percent to Rs 2,607 crore compared to Rs 2,063 crore in FY-15.

Videocon d2h reported simple EBIDTA of Rs 789.52 crore (EBIDTA margin of 27.6 percent) for FY-16 which was 32.5 percent more than the Rs 595.64 crore (25.5 percent EBIDTA margin) in FY-15.

The DTH major reported a lower loss in FY-16 at Rs 92.21 crore as compared to a loss of Rs 272.66 crore in FY-15.

ARPU increased by Rs 11 from Rs 196 in the previous year to Rs 207 in FY-16. ARPU in Q4-16 increased by Rs 12 y-o-y from Rs 202 in the corresponding year ago quarter to Rs 214 in Q4-16. ARPU in Q4-16 increased quarter-over-quarter (q-o-q) by Rs 3 from Rs 211 in Q3-16.

Incremental subscriber-churn in the current year reduced by 7 basis points to 0.73 percent as compared to 0.80 percent in FY-16. Incremental subscriber churn in Q4-16 increased 16 basis points to 0.58 percent year-over-year (y-o-y) from 0.42 percent but declined 15 basis points q-o-q from 0.73 percent.

Performance in Q1-17

Videocon d2h is the second listed Indian DTH player to report a profit after tax (PAT) in Q1-17, after the Essel group’s Dish TV that turned the numbers black last year. Videocon d2h reported PAT of Rs 2.7 crore for Q1-17. For the corresponding year ago quarter (Q1-16), the company had reported a loss of Rs 24.4 crore and for Q4-16, the reported loss was Rs 21.2 crore.

The DTH major also reported 15.5 percent year-over-year (y-o-y) growth in net subscriber number growth at 122.9 lakh for Q1-17 as compared to 106.4 lakh and a 3.6 percent quarter-over-quarter (q-o-q) growth from118.6 lakh. Average revenue per user (ARPU) in Q1-17 increased to Rs 219 from Rs 205 in Q1-16 and from Rs 214 in Q4-16

Adjusted EBIDTA grew 32.4 percent y-o-y in Q1-17 to Rs 251.9 crore (30.8 percent margin) from Rs 190.3 crore (28.7 percent margin) and grew 15 percent q-o-q from Rs 219.1 crore (28.4 percent margin). Videocon d2h reported that EBIDTA per subscriber had increased to Rs 70 in Q1-17 from Rs 61 in Q1-16 and from Rs 63 in Q4-16.

Industry speak on Q1-17

Dish TV managing director Jawahar Goel said, “Buoyed by digitization, notwithstanding the relative seasonal weakness in Q1-17, the industry collectively added around 15 percent higher subscribers compared to the same quarter last fiscal. DishTV maintained its lead in incremental subscriber additions during the quarter. Our strengtheneddistribution in DAS Phase III and IV areas along with the popularity of the Dish TV Insta Care – 4-Hour Service Assurance Campaign were instrumental in helping us maintain an edge overcompetition. Our regional and mass-market offerings continued to remain crowd-pullers in respective geographies.”

Please refer to figures D1 and D2 below for quarterly ARPU and monthly subscriber churn


As seen from above, the combined total number of net subscriber adds in Q1-17 was 12.97 lakh. Though Dish TV is the largest player in terms of subscription base, both Airtel DTH and Videocon d2h have overtaken it in terms of revenue.Overall, the pay DTH industry is turning profitable as is obvious from the results.

DAS III and IV are sunshine periods for the television carriage industry. Activation revenues have been adding to the top lines and bottom lines of most of the players. Have the players been able to optimise the opportunity that DAS has offered? Not fully!

At present the focus of a majority of the players across the carriage industry is more investor oriented, not viewer oriented. This has to change. DTH has the potential to grow even more than the predictions of the industry pundits, provided they get their act together in coming out with packaging – as has Dish TV to a limited extent. India is a price sensitive market, offer the viewers what they want at a reasonable price and the sheer volumes will bring in more and more moolah.

More important – can the operators truly compete with Jio with their current menu offerings? It is not only the telecom sector that has been disrupted. Television, as we know it from the carriage perspective has also been disrupted and may soon be a part of history. The way content is produced could change.

Mukesh Ambani in his address to the shareowners early this month has promised a huge cache of media and entertainment with the Jio app that comes free, and content that will be free until 31 December 2016. Here is what he has said, “Jio offers a suite of applications that brings you the very best across the categories of media, entertainment, moneyand essential utilities.With the JioTV entertainment app, ‘Anytime is Prime-time’.You can watch more than 300 live TV channels including 40 HD channels with access to all of last week's programmingat any point in time.The JioCinema app brings the cinema-theatre at your fingertips.Watch ad-free, HD movies from the largest library of 6,000 movies, more than 60,000 music videos and 1 lakh episodes of TV shows in 10 languages.The JioMusic app makes Ultra-HD music a reality, with a library of 10 million (1 crore)  songs in over 10 languages.”

And what happens to profits once the activation fee component goes down, optimistically, though falsely,assuming that Jio will not affect the statusco?


(1)The unit of currency in this report is the Indian rupee - Rs (also conventionally represented by INR). The Indian numbering system or the Vedic numbering system has been used to denote money values. The basic conversion to the international norm would be:

(a) 100,00,000 = 100 lakh = 10,000,000 = 10 million = 1 crore.

(b) 10,000 lakh = 100 crore = 1 arab = 1 billion.

(2) As per data from a Dish TV investor presentation, Dish TV says that it is the largest player in the country with a market share of 26 percent. It says that Airtel has a market share of 20 percent and Videocon d2h of 16 percent as per estimates based on 30 June 2016. It maybe noted that in its investor presentation, Videocon d2h claims a subscriber market share of 21 percent as on 31 March 2016.

(3) TRAI Reports:DTH has attained a registeredsubscriber base of around 88.64 million (including 58.53 million activesubscribers). As on March 2016, there are 6 pay DTH serviceproviders catering to this subscriber base. This is besides theviewership of the free DTH services of Doordarshan.

(4) This paper covers only the three of the seven DTH service providers in India (as had the previous two papers) since the other four– Reliance Digital TV, Sun Direct (about 97 lakh subscribers as on March 31, 2015), TataSky and DD Free Dish are not listed directly on the bourses and their financial numbers are not available, unless the principals of these companies/segments chose to reveal them. The three players – Airtel DTH, Dish TV and Videocon d2h have already been covered in our earlier reports.

(5) Some of the players mention their financial as well as subscription numbers in millions in their financial reports/investor presentations and other documents that they make available publically. The financial numbers have been converted to Rs crore  and subscription number to lakh to an approximation, andpercentages have been mentioned to the second decimal place approximation wherever required.

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