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2014: A year of improved subscriber numbers

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The year 2014 has been better than the previous year, in terms of the share of numbers for all direct to home (DTH) players. Subscriber additions were higher and there was more stability in the overall industry. In terms of price discounting, people were more rational through the year. Overall, it has been a much better year than 2013.

Increased subscriber numbers and ARPU

Overall additions in subscribers, for all the DTH players, were higher in the magnitude of 25-30 per cent than the previous year.

That apart, the churn came down substantially, not only for Dish TV, but for all the other DTH players as well.

2014 also saw a rise in the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). But there are still problems, since the whole cable TV system hasn’t stabilised and gross billing hasn’t been fully implemented. Though, we do see some encouraging signs, in terms of people getting down to doing that now.

DTH has been able to take price increases through the year. There was a price increase which took place in April, at the magnitude of 8-9 per cent. But the big collection from the ground will happen only once cable TV gets its act together.

Different people calculate ARPU differently. For example, Dish TV calculates it on subscriber revenue, whereas Airtel Digital TV, as per its published figures, looks at gross numbers, and so do others. So there is no common matrix being used across the industry for definition of ARPU. But having said that, at the consumer level, the consumer prices are in the average price range of Rs 250-275.

Challenges in 2014

One of the major challenges that we continue to present to both the state and central government is on the high level of taxation on DTH. Apart from the taxation element which we have been presenting, we are the only industry which is subject to service tax and entertainment tax. While we were hoping for some relief in the last budget, we didn’t get that, we hope we will get some relief in the coming year.

Secondly, there is no clarity on the licence fee issue, even though the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a recommendation, there has been no action on that front.

So while we lived in continued uncertainty in 2014, we hope that the government will take some steps in 2015. People have invested more than Rs 25000 crore in the industry, so at least we have the right to know what the law of the land will be going forward.

The new launch Zing

It has been an extremely successful product in all the geographies we launched. The specific proposition that we had, which was regional first and targeting the entire product mix around consumption has clicked very well with the customers. So we are very pleased with the way things have come.

Highs and lows of 2014

 For Dish TV, it has been a fairly stable year. We regained our share leadership for about last three to four quarters. We launched a significant and tactical product in Zing which has helped us capitalize on the phase III and IV areas. The high point has been that we have been able to, post the balance sheet adjustment that we did last year, been able to get back on the growth path, which is what we have always said and we achieved that in 2014.

The low point is at two levels: At one level, the whole issue of taxation and licence fee kept dragging for the whole year. Secondly, we expected the cable TV and broadcaster system to stabilize the whole regime. The whole issue of getting proper addressability and customers to actually choose and compare products has still not happened.

Delayed Digitisation

First and foremost, the manner of digitisation needs to be addressed. What has happened in the first two phases is simply the change of pipe. This has not been supported by addressability and that is the reason there has been no or marginal change in the revenue flow.

 Until and unless these issues are addressed, a non-addressable digitisation is of no help to anybody, neither to the government nor the stakeholders. We hope that by the time they get down to it, we will have some better roadmap of how to achieve that.

(These are purely personal views of Dish TV CEO R C Venkateish and indiantelevision.com does not necessarily subscribe to these views)

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