The highs and lows of DTH in 2014

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22 May 2014
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MUMBAI: 2014 was a busy year for direct-to-home (DTH) operators. When not fighting among themselves over market share, they were engaged in a battle on all other fronts, whether it was the government or the broadcasters or cable TV platforms.
The year started with the fight between Dish TV and IndiaCast UTV as the DTH operator took the television channels of TV18 Broadcast and Disney India on RIO [Reference Interconnect Offer] basis.
Apart from these usual scuffles, the year saw the DTH players pushing the envelope as far as gaining market share and improving consumer experience were concerned.
Essel Group-promoted Dish TV led the DTH onslaught by launching a sub-brand Zing to take on cable TV in Phases III and IV of digital addressable system (DAS). That the DAS deadline got revised under the new government is a different matter, but the launch of a sub-brand was an innovation. Zing was launched in West Bengal, Tripura, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
In line with its proposition of quality service to its customers, Tata Sky became the first Indian DTH operator to order 4K Ultra HD STBs from Technicolor. Not to be left behind, Videocon d2h also went and unveiled the 4k STBs ahead of Tata Sky. Both operators now plan to roll out UHD services in early 2015. While the intent is laudable, the DTH operators will find the going tough due to challenges over lack of availability of UHD content.
The year also saw Videocon d2h reviving its Rs 7 billion initial public offering (IPO) plans. It successfully got market regulator SEBI’s nod. Videocon d2h is now looking to hit the market in February. During the year the company also achieved the landmark of crossing the gross subscriber base of 10 million.
Talking of subscriber base, sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) performance indicator report brought out the fact that challenges are still galore for DTH operators. According to the report, India’s DTH sector has 29.33 million inactive subscribers out of a registered subscriber base of 67.57 million.
On the regulatory front, the TRAI’s recommendations on the new DTH Guidelines have been music to the ears of the DTH players. Not only did the regulator propose favourable recommendations like reducing licence fee to 8 per cent Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and increasing licence period to 20 years, but it also suggested removing cross-media restriction to allow vertical integration since the DTH industry is in dire need of investment.
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