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Dish TV management on new tariff order, subscriber addition, content cost

Content cost for the first quarter was around Rs 610 crore

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MUMBAI: The last quarter of financial year 2018-19 was not very smooth for any player in the cable and broadcast industry due to the implementation of the new tariff order (NTO). India’s largest direct-to-home (DTH) operator also saw few bumps on the way but the entire transition process has now settled down. Dish TV India group CEO Anil Dua noted the positive change and also highlighted that the NTO has created level playing field between cable operators and DTH players.

After last quarter, Dish TV pointed out that consumers were in a state of transition, trying to understand how to create their new packaging. While the company gave them a lot of options to select packages under new regime, those also led to a certain amount of time taken by the customer to settle down with new choices.

“Consumers are now watching the packs that they want to watch. It's a combination of à la carte channels that they have chosen, the DPO packs that we have provided and, of course, also the broadcaster bouquets, which are part of those packs. So, the customers are taking a combination of various things to their liking, to their choice, to their price point,” Dua said in an earnings call after Dish TV’s quarterly result.

The implementation of NTO was followed by speculations and several studies whether consumers are paying more than the pre-NTO era. Dua said there are Dish TV customers, a little less than half, who have gone for a price point lower than what it was earlier and a little more than half have gone for a price point which was higher than earlier. He also mentioned that with cricket and election season and other things during the quarter, consumers also added channels.

Dish TV India chief financial officer Rajeev Dalmia said the consumer level average revenue per user (ARPU) was around Rs 270-275 in the new regime. According to Dalmia, it varies on a month-on-month basis, because things are still not completely settled at the consumer’s end. He also added that the second half of this year would give an idea what is going to be the run rate as far as the consumer ARPU is concerned.

“If I remove the effects of cricket, we definitely see it (ARPU) going up. But because of cricket, customers come and go, and they add packages, they remove packages. So, the steady state figure will emerge. This is the first quarter with the new accounting, and first time we are talking of a figure like Rs 116. I think we will have to wait and watch. But fundamentally, the way we have planned things and the way we see things during the first quarter, the underlying growth in ARPU should be there,” Dua commented.

“As far as licence fee is concerned, now that will be on the basis of Rs 926 crore, rather than the earlier regime where it was including the content cost. So, it will go down to the extent of the content cost. To give you an example, like we paid say Rs 2,000 crore last year, so this year license fee will be less by Rs 200 crore,” Dalmia said.

There has been a delay by Dish TV in terms of making payments to broadcasters like ZEE and Star. Dalmia blamed certain issues in terms of how the billing would be done and how the incentive would be allocated to the company for the delay. He also added that all the outstanding dues would be cleared by the month of September giving a fresh start from 1 October as the things are more or less settled now.

EBITDA in the earlier regime was Rs 476 crore which is now Rs 536 crore. But the expenses were higher in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter because of selling commission, service payout, and overall marketing costs as the number of subscribers added were quite high as compared to the fourth quarter.

“But if I go line-by-line, then we have saved on general administration expenses, we have saved on collection cost, and we have also saved on the personnel cost, because personnel cost used to be Rs 65 crore to Rs 70 crore per quarter, which has gone down to Rs 45 crore. And we further see some Rs 1 crore or Rs 2 crore going forward saving on account of personnel costs. So, overall line-by-line it has gone down. But of course, because the savings and service is linked to the number of new installations, that has gone up in the first quarter,” Dalmia added on expenses.

Content cost for the first quarter, which was a cricket-heavy one was around Rs 610 crore. On the other hand, the capex was Rs 205 crore for the quarter and for the full year  it will be in range of Rs 650 crore to Rs 675 crore. The company reset the guidance of net subscriber addition for the year which is to the tune of 8 lakh.

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