Tata Sky launches DTH service; STB price Rs 3999, basic subscription Rs 200

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Tata Sky Ltd, the $ 500 million joint venture between Tata Sons and the Rupert Murdoch-owned Star Group, today officially announced its arrival as India’s second DTH platform after Dish TV.

Tata Sky is kicking of its service in 300 cities at an "introductory" monthly subscription of Rs 200 for the 55-odd channels it presently has on the platform.

Price: hardware+installation Rs 3,999
Monthly subscription: Rs 200
No. of channels available: 55+
Present area of service: 300 cities
1st year target: 1 million subscribers
Investments made till now: over Rs 25 billion
Most critically, the Tata Sky set top box (supplied by News Corp owned NDS)
has been priced at Rs 3,999 (inclusive of taxes). This includes installation
and hardware cost and a full service warranty for one year.

However, along with the monthly subscription of Rs 200, the Tata Sky offering will be more expensive than rival Dish TV's package.

Tata Sky CEO and MD Vikram Kaushik with Tata Sky chairman Ishaat Hussain
Click here for a slideshow
The Subhash Chandra-owned Dish TV is priced at Rs 3,290 (inclusive of taxes). This includes the cost of the STB as well as three months' subscription. The monthly subscription for the basic Dish TV service of 75 channels is Rs 180.
Announcing the launch at a glitzy event in Delhi where the likes of cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle rubbed shoulders with Mandira Bedi, Tata Sky MD and CEO Vikram Kaushik grandly proclaimed, “Entertainment will never be the same again.”

Going on to harp on the state-of-the-art technology and finesse of the service, Kaushik added, “It’s a technological innovation that’ll bring the senses alive.”

Apart from the many channels on the Tata Sky platform, a conspicuous absentee is the Zee Turner bouquet of over 20 channels as an agreement between Tata Sky and Zee Turner Ltd has not yet been concluded.

Kaushik admitted that negotiations have not been concluded, but was hopeful that “things would get sorted out soon.”

Another major absentee is the Sun Network, which dominates the South Indian markets. Tata Sky is, however, not alone in this, since Dish TV does not have access to the Sun channels either.

“We are offering 55+ channels at the moment and with the passage of time the number of offerings would grow,” Kaushik said.

The channels presently available on the non-tiered Tata Sky platform include all the channels from the Star (17), Sony Discovery One Alliance (14) bouquets as well as ESPN Star Sports and two channels of NDTV as its key offerings.

It is worth noting here that it was only this morning that the deal for the carriage of the One Alliance channels by Tata Sky was signed and delivered.

Confirming this to, SET Discovery president Anuj Gandhi said the pricing terms was similar to the one signed recently with Dish TV.

One Alliance is being paid around Rs 38 per subscriber by Dish for its channels. The deal is a five-year one that is extendable at the end of it, Gandhi revealed.

Also available on the Tata Sky platform would be some Doordarshan channels as well the likes of Times Now, Aaj Tak, Headlines Today, etc. Some interactive and specially designed movie channels have also been thrown in as a sop.

The Tata Sky service, Kaushik claimed in the presence of his company chairman Ishaat Hussain, has been designed to give subscribers “choice, control and convenience” in the way they want to watch television.

A host of interactive services such as an on-screen programme guide, Actve Sports, Actve Star News, Actve Newsroom and Actve Khabar are also on offer.

To offer maximum convenience to subscribers, Tata Sky has set up a pan-India distribution network of popular consumer electronic stores and mobile phone outlets for retailing its hardware and prepaid recharge vouchers.

The pre-paid vouchers come in various denominations starting off with Rs 260.

The company has also tied up with LG, ITC International Business Division and Indian Oil Corporation as part of its distribution drive.

“We are looking at ramping up our activity and service over the next three months when the service should be covering the whole of India,” Tata Sky consumer marketing head Vikram Mehra said.

The company has engaged a field force of approximately 3,000 people who will be complemented by a high-end 24x7 call centre, manned by multi-lingual customer service associates, trained to solve all customer problems.

But Mehra was not forthcoming on the media campaign that’s about to break “soon”, except to say that it would be a 360 degree campaign using all normal media outlets.

Tata Sky is an 80:20 DTH joint venture between the Tata Group and Hong Kong-based Star Group.

The joint venture has invested over Rs 25 billion in the project till now, according to Kaushik, who added the target of 1 million subscribers in the first year is achievable.

The unveiling of the Tata Sky service finally turns into reality a dream Murdoch has had since 1997 - of having a DTH platform in India

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