DTH

Tata Sky targets 1 July for DTH launch

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MUMBAI: Rumours of delays may be rife in the market but Tata Sky - the 80:20 joint venture between the Tata Group and Star India - is targeting a 1 July commercial launch of its direct-to-home (DTH) service, informed industry sources aver.

Tata Sky CEO Vikram Kaushik, while speaking to Indiantelevision.com, was however quite categorical that any talk of a date of launch was premature at this stage and therefore purely speculative. Kaushik would only confirm that his company was on target for a mid-year launch for its DTH service.

Tata Sky will begin the "test run" of India's third DTH service after Zee Group's DishTV and Prasar Bharati's DD direct from 15 May, the sources say. It has marked out a 45-day window period till 30 June during which time all technical and channel and programme related issues will have been ironed out.

According to the sources, the preparatory work for the launch has been ratcheted up several gears in the last three weeks after the company collected from the information and broadcasting ministry the final licence clearing the way for the $500-million DTH service to take off.

It was in December last that the telecommunication ministry gave its green signal for the vexed matter of setting up an uplinking base in Delhi by Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, an issue that was under government scanner on technical grounds of land use by VSNL of its Chattarpur facility. The telecom ministry nod was seen as crucial for obtaining the final licence from the I&B ministry.

Tata Sky has three operational centres in the country. Its technical set-up is headquartered in the capital, its complete back-up systems, including call centre operations, is out of Bangalore while its commercial activities are managed from Mumbai.

One big priority of course is getting all popular channels onto its platform, a matter that rival DishTV has still to resolve with the Star network and the Sony-Discovery One Alliance. Here, like in the case of the Subhash Chandra-promoted DTH service, ESPN Star Sports has already worked out a carriage deal with Tata Sky.

Queried about this, Kaushik would only say, "We are in ongoing discussions with all major broadcasters. More than this I cannot comment at this stage."

Speaking of channels, a key function of all addressable systems is the electronic programme guide (EPG). Tata Sky has exchanged letters with all broadcasters on use of logos and such in regards to how the programming highlights in its EPG will be displayed. The operator has reportedly requested all channels to provide these details ahead of the 15 May week.

Another aspect that Tata Sky has to confront is of how to get around the last mile roadblock. One strategy that it is going with is to introduce pre-paid cards, which Kaushik believes would make subscription payment easier for the consumer. This differs from the DishTV strategy, which offers new customers its services for Rs 3,990 that includes one year's subscription. After a year, DishTV subscribers pay a monthly subscription fee.

Secondly, Tata Sky plans to take the responsibility of directly installing the hardware in every subscriber's home and servicing it whenever needed. This again differs from DishTV which has a distribution network of about 5,000 dealers / distributors across the country.

On the hardware side, Tata Sky, like DishTV has done, will be offering its boxes through consumer durable outlets.

As regards subscriber acquisition, Tata Sky is following a two-pronged strategy of targeting individual consumers as well as institutions, for which there is a separate head of institutional sales.

Industrial townships, hospitals, hotels, etc. are where the operator is directly negotiating to set up a central dish antenna through which it can connect individual installations.

Where it has come into direct confrontation with last mile operators has been when it approached housing societies in various cities with the institutional model to offer its services.

In fact, one of the reasons for a majority of cable networks in Kolkata blacking out the Star group of channels has been this issue. The protest against carriage of the Star channels in Kolkata is being led by the Forum of Cable Operators and Cable Operators Sanjukta, two association bodies of the last mile operators in the city. "Star was asking for a hike, which we couldn't have passed on to the consumers. Besides, Tata Sky, where Star is a partner, is wanting to grab subscribers by offering housing societies free cabling from a single central antenna," Cable Operators Sanjukta spokesperson Papi Banerjee told Indiantelevision.com recently.

Be that as it may, Tata Sky has set itself some ambitious goals. The major one reportedly being to acquire around one million subscriptions by this year.

Tata Sky CEO Vikram Kaushik, while speaking to Indiantelevision.com, was however quite categorical that any talk of a date of launch was premature at this stage and therefore purely speculative. Kaushik would only confirm that his company was on target for a mid-year launch for its DTH service.

Tata Sky will begin the "test run" of India's third DTH service after Zee Group's DishTV and Prasar Bharati's DD direct from 15 May, the sources say. It has marked out a 45-day window period till 30 June during which time all technical and channel and programme related issues will have been ironed out.

According to the sources, the preparatory work for the launch has been ratcheted up several gears in the last three weeks after the company collected from the information and broadcasting ministry the final licence clearing the way for the $500-million DTH service to take off.

It was in December last that the telecommunication ministry gave its green signal for the vexed matter of setting up an uplinking base in Delhi by Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, an issue that was under government scanner on technical grounds of land use by VSNL of its Chattarpur facility. The telecom ministry nod was seen as crucial for obtaining the final licence from the I&B ministry.

Tata Sky has three operational centres in the country. Its technical set-up is headquartered in the capital, its complete back-up systems, including call centre operations, is out of Bangalore while its commercial activities are managed from Mumbai.

One big priority of course is getting all popular channels onto its platform, a matter that rival DishTV has still to resolve with the Star network and the Sony-Discovery One Alliance. Here, like in the case of the Subhash Chandra-promoted DTH service, ESPN Star Sports has already worked out a carriage deal with Tata Sky.

Queried about this, Kaushik would only say, "We are in ongoing discussions with all major broadcasters. More than this I cannot comment at this stage."

Speaking of channels, a key function of all addressable systems is the electronic programme guide (EPG). Tata Sky has exchanged letters with all broadcasters on use of logos and such in regards to how the programming highlights in its EPG will be displayed. The operator has reportedly requested all channels to provide these details ahead of the 15 May week.

Another aspect that Tata Sky has to confront is of how to get around the last mile roadblock. One strategy that it is going with is to introduce pre-paid cards, which Kaushik believes would make subscription payment easier for the consumer. This differs from the DishTV strategy, which offers new customers its services for Rs 3,990 that includes one year's subscription. After a year, DishTV subscribers pay a monthly subscription fee.

Secondly, Tata Sky plans to take the responsibility of directly installing the hardware in every subscriber's home and servicing it whenever needed. This again differs from DishTV which has a distribution network of about 5,000 dealers / distributors across the country.

On the hardware side, Tata Sky, like DishTV has done, will be offering its boxes through consumer durable outlets.

As regards subscriber acquisition, Tata Sky is following a two-pronged strategy of targeting individual consumers as well as institutions, for which there is a separate head of institutional sales.

Industrial townships, hospitals, hotels, etc. are where the operator is directly negotiating to set up a central dish antenna through which it can connect individual installations.

Where it has come into direct confrontation with last mile operators has been when it approached housing societies in various cities with the institutional model to offer its services.

In fact, one of the reasons for a majority of cable networks in Kolkata blacking out the Star group of channels has been this issue. The protest against carriage of the Star channels in Kolkata is being led by the Forum of Cable Operators and Cable Operators Sanjukta, two association bodies of the last mile operators in the city. "Star was asking for a hike, which we couldn't have passed on to the consumers. Besides, Tata Sky, where Star is a partner, is wanting to grab subscribers by offering housing societies free cabling from a single central antenna," Cable Operators Sanjukta spokesperson Papi Banerjee told Indiantelevision.com recently.

Be that as it may, Tata Sky has set itself some ambitious goals. The major one reportedly being to acquire around one million subscriptions by this year.

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