DTH

Oct-Dec quarter sees highest pay TV DTH subscriber growth in 2017

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BENGALURU: After the debacle created by demonetisation in November 2016 and then the implementation of the new Goods and Services Tax regime in July 2017, the fortunes of the pay TV direct-to-home (DTH) industry seem to be improving in terms of subscriber addition. Quarterly data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) indicates that the industry added net 22.5 lakh (2.25 million) subscribers for the quarter ended 31 December 2017 (October to December17 quarter). Throughout the calendar year 2017 (CY-2017), the industry had added 49.1 lakh (4.91 million subscribers), hence the final quarter of CY-2017 accounted for about 46 percent of the net subscribers added during the year.The Oct-Dec17 quarter had the highest quarter-on-quarter pay-TV DTH subscriber growth in CY-2017 at 3.45 percent. The number of active pay-TV DTH subscribers in India as per TRAI data as on 31 December 2017 was 675.6 lakh or 67.56 million as compared to 653.1 lakh (65.31 million) in the Jun-Sep17 quarter.

As mentioned by us earlier, CY-2017 saw muted pay-TV DTH subscriber growth. Those numbers were based on the results declared by three private DTH players whose numbers are available in the public domain. They are: Indian telecom major Bharti Airtel’s Airtel Digital TV (Airtel DTH), the Essel group’s Dish TV and Videocon d2h. The other three private pay-TV players during a part of CY-2017 were Tata Sky, the Sun TV Network’s Sun Direct and Reliance Big TV. It may be noted that Reliance Big TV has been acquired by Pantel Technologies and Veecon Media. Normal operations have to recommence as yet. A number of Big TV customers were acquired by other players and the true status of its operations and current subscriber numbers are still unclear at the time of writing of this paper. Furthermore, the merger of Videocon d2h into Dish TV has been recently concluded, and the combined entity has the second largest pay-TV subscriber base in the world.

Be that as it may, the share of the three major players in the Oct-Dec17 quarter (in order of number of subscribers–Dish TV, Airtel DTH and Videocon d2h) has been declining from about 65 percent to 64 percent in the Jun-Sep17 quarter to an even lower 63 percent in the Oct-Dec17 quarter. It may be noted that Tata Sky subscriber base could be higher than Airtel’s subscriber base. Tata Sky data is not available in the public domain, and hence this cannot be verified or neglected.

Besides the six private pay DTH players, Doordarshan’s (DD) FreeDish DTH service is a major player in terms of subscribers with an estimated 2.2 crore as per the numbers available in the public domain. It must, however, be noted that an exact number of registered or active subscribers is not available even with DD since this is a free DTH service.According to an E&Y report titled ‘India’s Free TV’ released in July 2017, among the DTH operators in India DD FreeDish has grown to become the largest with its estimated 2.2 crore subscribers which E&Y predicted could cross 4 crore over the next two to three years.

Please refer to the figure below for the trends of pay-TV subscribers based on TRAI data and the numbers published by the three players in the public domain. Q-o-q growth for the Jan-Mar16 quarter cannot be compared with the Oct-Dec15 quarter since TRAI changed the way it measured active DTH subscribers in the Jan-Mar16 quarter.

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