Space TV gets DTH LoI

MUMBAI: Not "in a day or two" but in a few hours is how it finally panned out. The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry this evening handed over the long awaited letter of intent (LoI) to a representative from Tata's Delhi office.


The LoI, to be followed by a formal license, will enable Space TV, the 80:20 joint venture between Tata and Star, to commercially launch its Rs 16 billion ku band direct-to-home (DTH) service by the end of 2005, an official release stated.

The release quoted Vikram Kaushik, CEO, Space TV as saying, "We are very excited that the clearance has been awarded. Both partners, Tata and Star, are fully committed to invest in building a high quality digital infrastructure in the country to offer a world class television viewing experience to Indian households. We believe the service will immensely enhance the choices of viewers looking for the best of pay television services in the country."



One clear mandate that Space TV has before it is to make its DTH service "India's largest digital television platform, offering consumers a wide array of programming choices with interactive features and superior picture and sound quality."

Before it can achieve that goal, it has some catching up to do first. The Subhash Chandra-promoted Dish TV has had a clear head start as the first player to enter the segment in October 2003 while pubcaster Prasar Bharati, launched its free-to-air platform 'DD Direct+' in December 2004.

Contacted by Indiantelevision.com, a senior executive of Dish TV, which is 20 per cent owned by Zee Telefilms, welcomed the LoI issued to Space TV, saying, "Competition will benefit the consumer at the end of the day."

With the entry of Space TV and Sun DirectTV (Sun Group's proposed DTH platform), there will be a total of four players in the Indian DTH arena. Currently Dish TV claims to have about 200,000 subscribers while Prasar Bharati boasts of over two million subscribers.

Speaking of Sun DirectTV, while it can be assumed that it too got the LoI, indiantelevision.com was unable to get an official confirmation on this from Kalanidhi Maran's network at the time of filing this report.

The handing over of the LoIs follows the confirmation by newly appointed information and Broadcasting secretary S K Arora earlier in the day that his ministry would be issuing "in a day or two" letters of intent relating to the DTH licence of Space TV and Sun DirectTV. The scrutiny "process is complete" as all queries have been satisfactorily answered by the applicants, Arora had said during a media briefing in the afternoon.


The Press Trust of India has reported that an AIADMK member of Parliament today moved the Madras High Court to restrain the Centre from processing Sun TV's DTH application citing the "Competitive Act 2002.

When the PIL by PG Narayanan, AIADMK leader in the Rajya Sabha, came up for hearing, a division bench comprising Justice Prabha Sridevan and Justice C Nagappan directed the Union ministries of company affairs, home, communications and information technology and Sun TV to file counter affidavits in response to the petition by 24 May, PTI has reported.

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