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With d2h merger, Essel Group will have world’s largest subs base

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BENGALURU: The Essel group is one of the largest media and entertainment industry players in India. Its flagship company is Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (Zeel) that has a weightage of 45 per cent on the National Stock Exchange’s Nifty Media Index.

Its group company, Dish TV Limited (Dish) is also is the largest DTH player in the country in terms of number of subscribers. Along with DTH services, the group also has one of the largest cable operators or multi-system operators (MSO) in Siti Networks Limited or Siti (the erstwhile Siti Cable Network Limited). Amongst the major MSOs in India, Siti is the only one that has added 1.5 million (15 lakh) subscribers over the past few quarters, while its peers have had stagnating subscriber numbers.

On combining the number of subscribers, the two carriage industry players are already a force to reckon with – a fact that the Essel Group recognised, and will leverage. In an industry first, the two formed a content negotiating joint venture (JV) called Comnet. Both Dish and Siti are equal partners in the JV that came into existence on 1 July, 2015. As part of the JV, both companies said that they would hold joint discussions with broadcasters post which separate direct contracts between the broadcaster and distribution platform will be signed. Further, the JV’s intent is to bring together the industry on contentious taxation issues like the hike in entertainment tax in Delhi.

Let us look at what we have on the table -- Siti had 12.2 million (1.22 crore) subscribers -- of which 8.4 million (84 lakh) were digital as per its Q1-17 report, and Dish has reported a subscriber base of 15.1 million (1.51 crore) – totalling 27.3 million(2.73 crore). Now the merger with Videocon d2h will bring in another 12.5 million (1.25 crore) subscribers into the Essel fold for a grand total of 39.8 million (3.98 crore), hence about 2 million (20 lakh) more than the 37.8 million (3.78 crore) subscribers reported for DIRECTV.

Zeel’s channels have been regularly making it to the top five or 10 in the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) ratings across various genres, be they Hindi general entertainment (GEC), regional channels, movies, English entertainment, etc. Another group company, Zee Media Corporation Limited (ZMCL), offers general news and business news across its television channels.

The fact that a number of the top rated channels are Essel group companies as well as a huge slice of the Indian television subscription market is indeed huge leverage – bear in mind that the group will probably control more than 25 percent of the carriage industry in the country. And what with the sunset date for DAS phase IV nearing with no let-up in sight from the government, subscription numbers will only grow.

With this merger, synergies of the two match perfectly. Dish is more of a value player with offerings for all markets including rural, while Videocon d2h is a premium player.

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