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DTH operators woo customers with lucrative offerings

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The year has started on a good note for direct to home (DTH) subscribers. Even as Indian DTH players have seeded close to four million set-top-boxes (STBs) across the country in Q1-2015 alone, with growing competition and increasing digitization push, the companies are now also putting their best foot forward to woo more subscribers, while retaining existing ones.

Going by the latest Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) report, almost 34.90 million DTH subscribers in India are inactive as against the total registered subscriber base of 76.05 million till the quarter ending March 2015. So while the DTH operators have been thumping their chests about adding new subscribers, their constant effort is channelized towards luring existing subscribers to stay on. And one such way to do that is by launching new products and services.

As the year kicked off with the ICC Cricket World Cup and Indian Premiere League (IPL), DTH players got into overdrive mode early on with offerings galore. From Tata Sky launching 4K STBs, Videocon d2h rolling out a 4K Ultra HD multi genre channel, Dish TV offering discount packs, Sun Direct giving away an HD DVR connection at the cost of an HD connection on buying Samsung Curve to Airtel Digital TV’s UHD TV, it has been the year when DTH subscribers have been spoilt for choice.

Over the past eight months, different players have come up with different strategies to increase subscription as well as add more active subscribers.

Here’s a lowdown on who did what:

Dish TV

The DTH operator, which had in 2014 created a sub-brand called Zing, started the year by launching Zing for the Tamil Nadu market. Dish TV had introduced the sub-brand to cater to the specific needs of consumers in different regions and also give competition to the cable industry. Through this, Dish TV offered more than 145 channels, including 49 Tamil channels and services in a mere price of Rs 99 per month. Soon after, the operator launched Zing for the Kerala region as well. This time, it gave more than 150 channels, including 16 Malayalam channels at Rs 99 per month.

Cashing in on the IPL, Dish TV, which was one of the sponsors for Kolkata Knight Riders, introduced a special Cricket+ package to increase its subscription revenues as well as the entertainment quotient.

Dish TV, in order to get the ‘Art of Living’ lovers onboard launched Anandam Active to showcase the teachings of the spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar. The service was made available to the subscribers of Dish TV with a monthly subscription fee of Rs 59 per month.

“It has been our constant endeavour to make television viewing a wholesome experience for the entire family. We have always believed in offering unique content to our subscribers,” Dish TV COO Salil Kapoor had then said.

Soon after, in order to lure music lovers, Dish TV tied up with Hungama to launch ‘Music Active Service.’ The service was launched to enhance Dish TV’s portfolio in the field of VAS and music and provide unlimited music to subscribers. While it launched the service at an introductory price of Rs 35 till 31 October, it will be priced at Rs 45 starting 1 November.

The platform has something for everyone. In order to satiate the needs of movie lovers, Dish TV launched its first Home Video System - DishFlix. With this first of its kind push VOD service, Dish TV aims to empower consumers to enjoy uninterrupted ad-free entertainment. Through the service, viewers will be able to pause, play, fast forward and rewind movies or TV shows at their own convenience. Another unique feature is that this service will not require an internet connection as the content will be pushed to the customer’s STB via satellite. The customers for the service will need a DishFlix Box, which is priced at Rs 5990 that comes preloaded with 50 movies. Out of these, 15 movies will be refreshed every month on FIFO (First in First Out) basis (one new movie every two days) so that the viewable movie library is always updated. The monthly subscription to Flix studio is Rs 100.

Tata Sky

Tata Sky started its year with the launch of first 4K STB in India at a time when the country was preparing for the biggest cricketing extravaganza, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. While for the new subscribers, the 4K box was available for Rs 6400, existing subscribers could avail the box at Rs 5900.

Soon after, the DTH operator decided to disrupt the market by making DTH connections affordable for its customers. Keeping this in mind, the operator launched the ‘Daily Recharge’ voucher, which empowered subscribers to pay only for the day they watched TV at Rs 8. This also became the smallest denomination of recharge voucher in the television-viewing sector globally. Tata Sky’s aim was to make inroads into untapped markets.

“This initiative elevates the DTH sector by redefining the pace of digitization and reach to markets nationwide,” said Tata Sky MD & CEO Harit Nagpal at the time of launching the service.

The latest addition to the DTH operator’s offering is its new upgraded STB - Tata Sky+ Transfer, which will enable users to transfer the recorded content onto alternative screens. The new product addresses the growing consumption of video on the move, through smartphones, tablets and other alternative screens. The new STB, which is priced at Rs 9300 for new subscribers and Rs 7200, for existing customers, will work on a Wi-Fi connection.

Videocon d2h

For Videocon d2h, the highlight of the year has been the launch of the first 24-hour 4K Ultra HD multi genre channel in January. The 4K Ultra HD channel is a content pipe that can carry multi genre feeds like movies, video on demand, travel, infotainment, sports etc provided by international broadcasters or independent content providers. The channel was launched just before the ICC Cricket World Cup, thus enabling subscribers to experience the sport in 4K Ultra HD.

In June, the company unveiled its new initiative aimed at preschool and elementary school aged children with the launch of SMART Services. This comprised value-added bouquet of learning activities and games available exclusively to Videocon d2h subscribers at a subscription rate of Rs 45 per month. The banner included Smart Learning, Smart Kids and Smart Games, all available on subscription basis.

Airtel Digital TV

Airtel Digital TV was the first to launch indigenously manufactured STBs, in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. The STBs have been made available in HD and soon all of Airtel Digital TV’s STBs will be manufactured in India. These indigenous Airtel Digital TV HD+ STBs offer features like - Full HD 1080p support, MPEG-4 video with Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound; 5X picture clarity; unlimited recording (via USB-drive); and USB-based Wi-Fi connectivity for On-demand, Anytime TV and Interactive Gaming.

In order to make available DTH account details easily, Airtel Digital TV launched the missed call service for customers. Through this, customers can get their DTH account details on their mobile number by just giving a missed call on 08130081300. The service is completely free of cost for all Airtel Digital TV customers and provides information regarding customer ID, balance and validity, package name, monthly rental, base package rental, top up rental, last recharge date and amount and number of connections to customers on an SMS within five seconds of the missed call.

The company also rolled out an innovative and easy to use Self-Care application for television sets, a first-of-its kind by a DTH service provider. A TV replica of the ‘My Airtel mobile app,’ the Self-Care enables customers within Airtel Digital TV HD STBs could easily access their account details real-time on their TV sets. The app can be accessed by connecting the STB to an internet connection via a LAN cable or with the help of the newly launched plug and play Wi-Fi dongle– Airtel Infinity.

Sun Direct

DTH operator Sun Direct wooed its customers during the two mega sporting events of the year – the ICC Cricket World Cup and IPL. The platform, which believes that events like these help increase its existing subscriber base, came up with special packs during the World Cup and IPL. While it offered the Star Sports bouquet on its bestselling Cinema+Sports pack for the World Cup, it provided Sony Six, the official broadcaster for the league free to new customers in order to incentivize them during the IPL.

Sun Direct offered the Cinema+Sports package at Rs 195 per month during WC and focused on the pack in order to fulfill the requirements of its customers, during the cricketing season.

During IPL, the operator also provided IPL add-on free for customers, who recharged beyond six months. That apart, Sun Direct also came up with an add-on for Rs 44, which allowed customers to watch the T20 matches for the entire duration of the tournament. “We see the IPL as a good tool to win back customers and improve our recharges substantially,” Sun Direct CEO Mahesh Kumar had earlier told Indiantelevision.com.

While DTH operators have been putting their money where the mouth is by launching innovations as well as technological upgrades, the fact remains that close to 45 per cent of DTH subscribers are inactive in India. Going by this figure, DTH players will have to ramp-up their offerings to ensure that those coming onboard stay with them on as loyal customers in the long run.

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