's Perspectives

The International Scenario


(Posted on 11 March 2004)

The global DTH scene is as interesting as the emerging scenario in India. For example, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp-controlled British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) as on December 2003 had 7.2 million subscribers and is one of Murdoch's most profitable ventures.

But this venture (News Corp owns 35 per cent) bled for years, while Murdoch poured in millions of pounds. When it finally did turn profitable, it proved a windfall for News Corp as BskyB has emerged as the largest pay platform in the UK with cable TV almost wiped out.

Aggressive subscriber acquisition has been a mainstay of BSkyB is driven by partial subsidies extended on the set-top boxes (STBs).

The various packages include the Sky World and Family Pack at £40, which gives access to over 101 channels, including a range of sports, movies, entertainment, news and documentaries; Sky Movie World and Family Pack £34; which offers a choice of all-round entertainment for all ages and tastes; and Sky Sports World & Family Pack for £33, which offers entertainment with the family pack and four sports channels.

In the US, a market dominated 70 per cent by cable TV, Echostar has 9.3 million subscribers, while DirecTV (again a venture into which News Corp has bought into) has 10.6 million subscribers. Points out MPA's Vivek Couto, in case of the US, the DTH market is also driven by full subsidy that is extended on the STBs so that the whole pricing becomes attractive for consumers, apart from other initiatives like content and aggressive marketing.

As in the UK, in the US too a DTH platform offers tiered services depending on the type of content being dished out by the country's No. 1 digital satellite entertainment service provider, which uses an advanced satellite technology to deliver access to more than 225 channels of programming to homes and businesses that have DirecTV receiving equipment.

The basic Total Choice with local channels programming package, which includes over 125 channels, costs $39.99 per month. The cost to "mirror" that service to additional receivers in the home (meaning a multiple TV home) is $4.99 per month per receiver (as long as the customer keeps all the receivers continuously connected to the same land-based phone line). The different sales tax in different states of the US gets added to the bill.

DirecTV programming and service features popular networks like Disney Channel, CNN, ESPN and TNT, as well as up to 55 pay per view choices a day, including major Hollywood films and special events. Hit movies start as often as every 30 minutes and they cost only $3.99 each when a customer uses one's remote control to order.

DirecTV also offers professional and collegiate sports subscription lineup, including NFL Sunday Tickett, NBA League Pass, NHL Center Ice, MLB Extra Innings, MLS Direct KickM, ESPN GamePlan and ESPN Full Court.

The Sports Pack premium service and Total Choice Premier package deliver sports
action from across the nation. Adult channels like Playboy TV are available on an a la carte basis, something that does seem to be possible in India over the next few years at least.

Nearer home, in Japan, Sky PerfecTV has 3.11 million subscribers who are all residential customers. In Korea, SkyLife boasts of 1.12 million subscribers, while in Malaysia, the Astro platform has 1.22 million subscribers.


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