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With DTH evolution, life is not so 'jhingalala' for Tata Sky

Thakur

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In a series of commercials released in early August this year, directto-home (DTH) television services provider Tata Sky had Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan on his knees celebrating the company's tenth birthday. 

A decade after launching its services on the platform of providing DVD quality picture and CD quality sound, Tata Sky was keen to celebrate this land mark and had the Big B channeling his inner child (complete with a party) hat at a noisy birthday party. With over 12 million subscribers and a rapid evolution beyond its core DTH business (recording, video on demand, a host of value added services and rapidly growing users for its mobile app), the company had reason enough to celebrate. However, as it cheered this milestone, company officials have also wrestled to keep Brand Tata Sky fresh in a market that has rapidly commoditised. 


To be sure, Tata Sky has notched up some memorable campaigns over the past decade, including Poochne Mey Kya Jaata Hai (for value added services), Pyaar Jingalala (to promote its Active English series), its Prison Break three and-a-half-minute commercial for HD services and Aamir Khan essaying different roles as Sardar and Babloo to proselytise its offerings. More recently, Bachchan has been roped in to give the brand fresh impetus in a competitive market. "We are building the brand to offer much more than just TV to consumers," says Sukesh Nayak, executive creative director for O&M, the ad agency for Tata Sky since 2008. 


The evolution of the DTH industry, however, offers some tough lessons for Tata Sky. With little room to manoeuvre on prices and channel offerings, the company has had to look beyond in what is a boiling down to a four-cornered fight for India's DTH TV viewers. 

"Initially, we launched our services focused on high quality and then moved to the widest choice of channels," says Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO, Tata Sky. "Today, we are not just a DTH service provider, but a one-stop provider of content." Along the way, he has steered the evolution of a platform which boasts of over 600 channels on its DTH platform and a tenfold growth in its on demand unit from over 300 titles to over 3500. 

Lowering prices has helped bring in more subscribers(set top boxes have dropped from `4500 to around `1500 and monthly bills) nearly halved from `500 to `270), with Tata Sky morphing from a predominantly urban brand to today having some 70 per cent of its users in the hinterland. 

 

To keep its subscriber numbers ticking, however, Tata Sky has had to traverse far and wide. In the last few months, it has installed its boxes on an oil rig, in the Sunderbans in Bengal and in distant monasteries in the north-east. "For a wire to be drawn to service these distant users by traditional cable providers is uneconomical," says Nagpal. "We can set this up much faster and cheaper for these hard-to-access users." If the boondocks are helping Tata Sky keep its core business chugging, its oldest customers— the well-heeled urban user — is today spoilt for choice. 

While the old analogue cable provider has been compelled to digitise services, newer over-the-top video streaming providers (including global giant Netflix) all want a meaty piece of this action. "Tastes have changed and evolved," admits Nagpal. "We took five years to study this shift and we've now opened up the floodgates." In the past four months, he adds, Tata Sky's unique user numbers have grown four-fold, even as Tata Sky has looked to expand its library and upgrade its set top box with an in-built browser to allow users of its connected set top boxes to access their favourite apps. "We want to build a lean back (and watch a large screen) and not a lean forward (and peer at a phone or tablet) experience for our subscribers," he contends. 

Critics, however, say all this does little to slow the commodification of Brand Tata Sky. "There was an excitement that Tata Sky initially built around switching from your old cable provider to their superior services," says Manish Bhatt, founder director, Scarecrow. "Along the way, the brand hasn't managed to keep up the breathless pace of evolution." Instead, DTH boxes have been now relegated to the leagues of other white goods at home and the company now faces an uphill battle for relevance. "Today the brand and its products are seen more as a necessary evil in the house than anything with a strong brand identity," he adds. 

Like the DVDs and CDs, it was once associated with, Brand Tata Sky will need fresh ideas to stay aspirational and relevant. 

Hitting Refresh 
Subscribers: Over 12 million a decade after it began operations. 
Services: Direct-to-home cable TV; recording; video on demand; a mobile app which allows anywhere access. 
Challenge: A market with many rivals and little leeway to increase prices, channels or leverage unique technology. 
Competition: Not just legacy TV services providers (cable and DTH), but newer OTT players including global biggie Netflix. 
The Future: To keep pace, Tata Sky is tweaking the brand to focus on fuzzier areas like customer service and quality, even as it evolves into a broader digital content provider.


With DTH evolution, life is not so 'jhingalala' for Tata Sky - The Economic Times
 

prasad1979

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My suggestion, to stay ahead of competition -
1. Bring in 4K content,
2. Launch advanced STBs
 
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