DTH sector in India to grow sales at 19 per cent CAGR between 2013-18: MPA

MUMBAI: India’s direct-to-home (DTH) satellite pay-TV sector remains a growth oriented industry with significant potential for strategic and financial investors, according to a new report published by Media Partners Asia (MPA).


The report, entitled ‘India DTH Market Overview–Key Dynamics & Future Outlook’, forecasts that India’s DTH pay-TV sector will generate revenues of $ 4.04 billion by 2018, a CAGR of 19 per cent from $ 1.71 billion in 2013 and by 2023 the sector will generate revenues of $ 5.6 billion. In an earlier report, MPA had said that the DTH active subscriber base will increase from 37 million in 2013 to 60 million by 2018 and 70 million by 2023. This implies a 39 per cent share of the overall market by 2023 and a 56 per cent share of the digital pay-TV market.


DTH operators have been working together to improve the overall economics for the business by reducing the amount of free viewing offered to new subscribers and recalculating the incentives dealers receive for renewing subscriptions.


ARPU growth, according to the report, will be partially limited as DTH expands nationally, with low-income homes coming into the mix, although MPA sees a greater contribution from high- ARPU HD subscribers. According to the report, HD represented 6.9 per cent of the total active DTH base in 2013; which MPA expects to grow to 16.1 per cent by 2018 and to 20.1 per cent by 2023. MPA sees total DTH ARPUs expanding from $ 4.0 per month in 2013 to $ 5.7 by 2018.


Digital TV (DTV) has started to gain widespread acceptance across consumer households in India, driven largely by the growth of DTH satellite pay-TV platforms. Data from MPA indicates that DTV penetration, including digital cable and digital free and pay DTH platforms, has grown from less than 1 per cent in 2006 to 46 per cent as of 31 December 2013.


The six DTH pay-TV operators in the market have in aggregate contributed to 23 per cent penetration as of 31 December 2013, providing a level of market leadership due to superior capitalisation and a stronger consumer focus built around product strength and innovation, including tiering, HDTV and DVR services.


“DTH operators have been working together to improve the overall economics for the business by reducing the amount of free viewing offered to new subscribers and recalculating the incentives dealers receive for renewing subscriptions. ARPU growth will be partially limited as DTH expands nationally, with low-income homes coming into the mix, although we also see a greater contribution from high-ARPU HD subs. HD represented 6.9 per cent of the total active DTH base in 2013; we expect this to grow to 16.1 per cent by 2018, and to 20.1 per cent by 2023,” said MPA India VP Mihir Shah.


Key market trend highlights of the report:


Rational focus: Operators are increasingly focused on growing profits as opposed to solely increasing volume, often at the expense of profitability. As a result, operators have increased their basic prices, while at the same time reducing the trade margin arbitrage by Rs 200-250 to minimise rotational churn. Although subscriber additions post October 2011 have witnessed some slowdown. According to MPA both the quality of subscribers and ARPUs will continue to improve going forward.


DTV mandate: MPA believes that the implementation of mandatory cable digitisation by the government will be an important catalyst for growth in the DTH sector. DTH operators are relatively well positioned due to the strength of their B2C businesses (as opposed to B2B approaches amongst cable MSOs) and their experience and investment in tiering, subscriber management and billing and sales and marketing. In addition, as part of its reforms, the government has now permitted international companies to own up to 74 per cent of cable and DTH platforms.


HD penetration: As per MPA’s report, HD penetration will grow significantly in the future, rising from less than 7 per cent of active DTH subscribers currently to over 20 per cent by 2020. MPA’s estimates are based on benchmarks in the US, UK, Latin America and Southeast Asia. In the UK, incumbent DTH operator BSkyB currently has more than 50 per cent of its subscriber base adopting HD. Malaysia’s Astro has also demonstrated laudable rates with 49 per cent penetration at present on its DTH platform. Increase in HD channel offering is critical for growth in HD penetration. However for some of the mature global operators, MPA sees HD penetration as a percentage of total subscribers capping out at 60-65 per cent.


Upside capped by tax and regulation: A ~30 per cent drain of gross DTH subscription revenues – comprising a 12 per cent service tax, 8-10 per cent entertainment tax and a 10 per cent license fee – continues to hamper the industry’s ability to improve profitability. Although industry stakeholders are lobbying the government to change the license fee terms and make deductions based on adjusted gross revenue, these are yet to be finalised. A further cap on future industry upside comes in the form of spectrum issues resulting from the absence of an open skies policy that would allow DTH operators to directly source transponder capacity from foreign satellite operators, as opposed to the current system of going through the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) commercial arm Antrix.


Consumer proposition, technology key to future subscriber additions: Ramping up subscriber additions as analog cable subscribers turn to digital will largely depend on the consumer proposition offered by the DTH and cable operators. Gaining an increased share of new subscribers will hinge on designing and marketing innovative and simple packaging structures, bearing in mind that analog cable subscribers are used to an all-you-can-eat single package structure. Technology will also be key, as compression standards and middleware deployed by operators will play a crucial role, though not immediately visible, in differentiating service offerings and providing HD and value added services (VAS) such as interactive services, 3D and VoD.

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