Rs 4 billion DTH project would go down in the annals
of Indian TV industry for being the first off the
block, if not for anything else. With 48 channels
to begin with - mostly belonging to the Zee Turner
bouquet - the Zee / ASC combine put on air a vanilla
DTH service in the first week of
October 2003 at a monthly subscription rate, Rs 100
(slightly over $2).
Corp COO Peter Chernin
the time, Rupert Murdoch's right hand man in News
Corp, Peter Chernin, scoffed at the Dish TV service
and told indiantelevision.com in France during
an industry meet that when Star, along with its Indian
partner, launches a DTH service it would the real
such criticism has not deterred the Chandra companies
from going ahead with its plans, though it cannot
be said that Zee's DTH has been hurtling down the
Points out Zee Telefilms vice-chairman Jawahar Goel,
who is also spearheading the implementation aspect
of the DTH service based out of Delhi, "Critics
would always be there, but the proof of the the pudding
is in the eating. If our services were so bad, would
ESPN and Star Sports have joined the platform?"
much dilly-dallying, ESPN and Star Sports channels
came aboard the Dish TV platform last month saying
doubts that they had on security of the delivery mechanism,
amongst other things, had been cleared by Dish TV.
a big stumbling block still for aggressive acquisition
of subscribers for Dish TV is the non-availability
of Star and Sony bouquet of channels. Though Goel
would like us to believe that it is just a "matter
of time" when the popular channels come on board,
critics do feel that the sooner the broadcasters decide
amongst themselves, the better it would be for the
industry as in India, unlike the West, people would
want their daily dose of normal TV too on a DTH platform,
apart from some premium content. Because a DTH service
is driven by content, which needs to be a mix of basic
and premium programming.
like Zee, ought to be on deploying existing proprietary
content (that is, existing internally produced channels)
and making new internal content, both mass market
and premium/niche. Plus, there should be efforts on
getting content from other channels (like Sony and
the internationals)," points out MPA's Couto.
the realisation is dawning on ASC-Zee combine too
that the faster their act is put in place the better.
Especially as Rupert Murdoch's Star Group is likely
to unleash hectic activities having tied up with the
Tata group for a DTH venture.
Dish TV service was launched with a monthly subscription
of Rs 100, plus taxes, for a basic bouquet of 48 channels
and an introductory offer of Rs 3,990, plus tax, for
CPE (customer premise equipment), including a vanilla
set-top box. But now, as Essel Group (the mother entity
for Chandra's various businesses)'s corporate brand
development group head Ashish Kaul points out, it's
time to move on.
TV is adding 50 more channels to its DTH platform
taking the tally to 100 by April end. There are plans
to add another 100 channels in another one year taking
the tally to over 200.
Dish TV is not willing to disclose the details of
the genre or the type of channels that would be added
to the bouquet by next month or early May, Goel points
out, "The broad contours of the plans are moving
as scheduled. We had said that we'd increase the number
of channels as our capacity to beam them increases
over a period of time and we are doing so."
TV's marketing gameplan is a bit unique. It's not
aggressively targeting the urban areas or the metros.
The reason being that in the initial stages, Chandra's
team doesn't wish to cannibalize its cable distribution
business where Zee Telefilms' Siti Cable enjoys the
largest market share as the biggest multi-system operator
(MSO) in the country with a subscriber base of over
eight million households.
feels that with a total population of one billion
people and 44 million cable and satellite households,
there are still opportunities galore to penetrate
through with a DTH service in the country. "Simply
because there are drawbacks in the ground infrastructure
and there are vast terrain in the country where laying
of cable is very difficult or almost impossible, leaving
a DTH service as a good option for people," Goel,
one of the younger brothers of Chandra, explains as
he totes up numbers from around the country.
a bulk of the claimed DTH subscribers is coming from
non-urban and smaller cities and villages of India
in states like Punjab, Uttaranchal, Andhra Pradesh,
and even Jammu & Kashmir. Admits Kaul, "We
are not proactively marketing DTH in metros. On an
average, Dish TV claims to be receiving 20 e-mails
a week on inquiries related to the DTH service. The
places range from Alibagh, Raigarh, Bathinda, Ropar,
Hardwar, Allahabad and Saharsa.
are the inquiries getting translated into actual subscribers?
Says group president and CEO of ASC Enterprises Punit
Goenka, "The fact that we have over 100,000 subscribers,
that too without a marketing blitzkrieg, is a reflection
in itself that people don't just want to see the so-called
popular channels that you are referring to. DTH is
not an alternative to cable as both will coexist and
compliment each other in a country like India."
it's a bit hard to digest - the claimed subscriber
base, that is - Zee insiders insist that technically
Goel isn't incorrect. The number that is being bandied
around is based on the hardware units that have been
picked up by the distributors of Dish TV, which need
mean that all the hardware picked up from the Dish
TV has got installed on customers' premises.
Zee insiders say there would be approximately 40,000
consumers who have Dish TV equipment installed on
managed to get a toehold in the market with its "soft
launch", Dish TV would see a marketing and communications
blitzkrieg by April end this year.
Dish TV be able to maintain the momentum and stand
up to the competition from the Tata-Star combine?
A difficult question to answer as Zee has been known
to fritter away early advantages.