Dark horses disrupt DTH race order

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8 Aug 2011
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Dark horses disrupt DTH race order
Ashish Sinha
Posted online: 2011-08-26 01:50:33+05:30
New DelhiThe six-horse race of India’s private DTH operators has witnessed key changes among the front-runners and the tail-enders. Though Dish TV remains the No. 1 player based on gross and active subscribers, Bharti Airtel’s Digital TV — which was No. 4 until December — has emerged from the back to claim the No. 2 slot in terms of active users, pushing Tata Sky to No. 3 and Sun Direct to No. 4. Tata Sky, however, keeps the No. 2 slot in terms of gross subscribers.

The tail end has been more interesting: Here, Videocon’s D2H, which was the last in December, in terms of gross and active users, has beaten Reliance Big TV on both parameters, pushing it to the last slot. The new pecking order is significant since Videocon was the last to start DTH services. Reliance Big TV is part of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.

India’s active DTH user base rose from 23 million in December to 27 million in July. Paying customers in a particular period form the active subscriber base, whereas gross numbers refer to the overall base including active and inactive users.

At the end of last year, India had 9 million inactive DTH users, which rose to 13 million in July — a jump of 40% in seven months, says the latest report from international media research agency Media Partners Asia (MPA). The total number of ‘active’ DTH subscriber base for July stood at 27 million while the gross numbers have touched the 40-million mark, the MPA report said.

“We prefer the active subscriber benchmark, as it only includes paying customers from the last 30 days (therefore excluding free subscribers) in addition to customers net of churn. MPA analysis also suggests that Airtel Digital TV is now marginally ahead of Tata Sky in terms of active subscribers,” the MPA report said.

However, on gross subscriber numbers, Dish TV with 11.2 million subscribers still leads the pack of six DTH operators while Tata Sky is at the second place with 7.5 million subscribers.

When asked to comment on achieving the second position, Shashi Arora, CEO (DTH/media), Bharti Airtel told FE: “We thank our customers for the trust they have reposed in brand Airtel.”

“Within a short span of 30 months, Airtel Digital TV has become a dominant player in the DTH market, having overtaken several well-established players. With our focus on technology, focus on customers and strong distribution backed by the equity of brand Airtel, we are well on our way to gaining absolute category leadership,” said Arora.

Videocon d2h chief executive Anil Khera said the company has emerged as the largest acquirer of DTH subscribers on a per-day basis, picking up around 8,000 subscribers every day for the last four months. “Between April and August, Videocon d2h will cross the 1-million mark. On a month-on-month basis, we have acquired the highest number of subscribers compared to others,” Khera told FE.

According to sources, even on the basis of average revenue per user (Arpu), Videocon d2h is ahead of Big TV and Sun Direct, Khera said. “Our Arpu is R200-220, better than some of the other players,” he said. Industry estimates suggest that Airtel Digital TV and Tata Sky are among the leading players in terms of Arpu, clocking R220-240 in any given month.

Good luck for ADTV to gain 2nd place, and bad luck for RDTV for its last place.
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