Cable TV

Cable TV subscription revenue stays mostly flat in Q3, broadband biz grows faster

ARPU also largely remained flat

KOLKATA: Distribution platform operators (DPOs) played a crucial role during lockdown, keeping the reach of television content intact to millions of households in India. Although viewership went up at that time, the balance sheets reflected something entirely different both for TV channels as well as DPOs, especially for multi-system operators (MSOs). Overcoming the initial shock, the listed operators showed a turnaround in business starting from the second quarter. But the growth of subscription revenue remained mostly flat in the third quarter. The silver lining is that the majority of these operators added new broadband subscribers or expanded their footprint in new cities in that segment. However, the numbers are yet not nearing pre-Covid level owing to the deep plunge in Q1.

GTPL Hathway was one of the strongest performers on the block with growth in both cable TV subscription as well as broadband revenue. Cable TV subscription and broadband revenues in Q3 FY21 were at Rs 271.8 crore and Rs 77.8 crore respectively compared to Rs 267.7 crore and Rs 67 crore in the previous quarter. Placement or carriage income was at Rs 164 crore, driving the growth in cable TV segment while it stood at Rs 132.2 crore in Q2. However, ARPU remained the same at Rs 123 in the same quarter. Active subscribers (7.9 million) and paying subscribers (7.3 million) registered an uptick of 50K each against the growth of 100K in Q2.

NXTDigital’s third quarter also reported higher revenue, and more importantly, ARPU growth in certain areas. In contrast to its contenders in the market, its overall Q3 FY21 revenue growth was higher by 10.24 per cent to reach Rs 259.9 crore. Its EBITDA also rose by 20.85 per cent in the third quarter over the preceding one. On the subscriber addition side, both its cable TV and HITS business added 90k and 50k subscribers respectively. The company did not reveal its subscriber count in the quarter. While ARPU growth remained flat in all other regions, DAS III areas surged from Rs 138 to Rs 151.

An industry insider said, on condition of anonymity, that there are fewer chances of ARPU going up as there is no additional content currently playing as a differentiator among the cable operators. Moreover, broadcasters will not revise prices until there is clarity on NTO 2.0 resulting in almost zero scope for ARPU growth.

Essel group’s Siti Networks posted flat total revenue as well as subscription revenue in Q3 FY21. Total revenue stood at Rs 390.6 crore, slightly degrowing from Rs 391 crore in Q2. Subscription revenue of the company also declined to Rs 270.6 crore from Rs 273.4 crore in the previous quarter. The operator did not disclose either subscription addition or ARPU for the quarter.

Den Networks also reflected a similar trend with flat operating and subscription revenue. The total revenue grew by one per cent reaching Rs 342 crore compared to Rs 338 crore in the previous quarter. Subscription revenue also fell down from Rs 201 crore to Rs 206 crore in Q2 FY21. In contrast, placement and marketing income reflected good growth to reach Rs 106 crore from Rs 96 crore in the previous quarter. Additionally, the company showed a huge turn around in profit with 390 per cent growth as it reported a loss in the same quarter last year. Profit after tax stood at Rs 60 crore, 60 per cent up from Rs 37 core in the second quarter.

Another major cable TV service provider, Hathway’s operating revenue rose marginally in Q3 FY21 to Rs 442.26 crore from Rs 431.24 crore. Its cable TV revenue grew from Rs 277.9 crore to reach Rs 283.57 crore. Profit in the cable TV segment fell from Rs 21.22 crore in Q2 to Rs 16.50 crore in Q3. But its net profit jumped from to Rs 62.72 in Q3 over Rs 52.33 crore in the quarter before. The company did not provide any information on subscriber addition or ARPU.

On the bright side, all these operators improved their performance in the broadband business during Q3 FY21. For instance, Hathway’s broadband segment increased profitability on a huge scale, touching Rs 14.92 crore from Rs 6.68 crore. Reliance-controlled Den Networks’ broadband segment reported Rs 192.98 crore compared to Rs 188.47 crore in the second quarter.

GTPL Hathway, too, added 55,000 net broadband subscribers in the third quarter. “Our broadband business picked up pace owing to e-learning and work from home resulting in additional 1,85,000 broadband subscribers during 9M FY21. We are looking forward to close FY21 on a high note coupled with our planned launch of new products and services in Q4 FY21 along with expanding GTPL’s footprints in existing and new markets,” GTPL Hathway MD Anirudhsinh Jadeja said while announcing results for the quarter ended December 2020. Its ISP revenue shot up by 16 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

NXTDigital’s broadband customer base crossed half a million subscribers in Q3, a growth of 26.2 per cent over Q2. “We looked to leverage our video subscriber base to grow our broadband business whilst driving cross-selling and strategic alliance partnerships in key cities. Our deeper engagement with our franchisees and a focus on providing innovative packaging has continued to keep us on the growth course, especially in key semi-urban markets where we have a significant presence,” NXTDigital media group CEO Vynsley Fernandes said.

The company’s broadband revenue also saw a major increase to reach Rs 406 in the December quarter compared to Rs 303 in the previous one. Siti Broadband also expanded its footprint to 21 cities by the end of Q3 FY21, with the net base rising to 1.9 lakh.

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