The direct-to-home (DTH) space witnessed a lot of action in 2008 with the launch of Big TV and Digital Airtel, and Sun Direct going pan-India. Videocon’s DTH launch plans have been delayed for now. The year also saw the introduction of personal video recorders. Given the positive growth of 2008, DTH players are looking forward to even better times ahead in 2009 for the direct-to-home industry.
What started off as a price war earlier with the launch of the new players is now slowly but steadily shifting to quality and quantity of service, which is what the consumers ultimately want. The DTH space in India now has players like DishTV, DD Direct, Tata Sky, Big TV, Digital Airtel and Sun Direct.
With the growing number of players, competition has also become fiercer. According to industry players, 2009 would see some more new entrants in this space, which will further increase competition and at the same time also offer consumers with better deals and quality of content.
2008: The year that changed television viewing
Salil Kapoor, COO, DishTV, said, “2008 has been extremely successful for us at DishTV. In mid-June we introduced a free box scheme, Hattrick and happy home schemes, which were highly successful. We also reached four and a half lakh consumers in one month. We later increased our prices for all our offerings, and despite this we delivered/ kept selling in good numbers, therefore, establishing that customers were willing to pay a higher sum for the brand.”
Sanjay Behl, Group Head - Brand and Marketing, Reliance Communications, also said that the year 2008 had been a “phenomenonal one for us”. He added, “We have crossed a million customer base within just a three-month span of our launch. We have also set the tone for the future of digital home and entertainment of the country, completely redefining television viewing experience in the country by offering digital viewing on over 200 channels. With more channels, more cinema and more quality, we have done very well this year.”
Vikram Mehra, Chief Marketing Officer, Tata Sky, said, “The year has been a good one for us. We have doubled our numbers this year, we have launched Tata Sky Plus and a number of interactive applications, which have been hugely successful. We will continue investing heavily on our customer services.”
2009 and the road ahead
Speaking on the road ahead, Kapoor said, “We aim to touch the five-million mark by the end of this financial year, that is, March 2009. This year saw a lot of VAS properties and new initiatives being launched, and in 2009 we look forward to more such initiatives.”
He further said, “The concern here I believe is the sustainability of high cost platform as the dollar is week, therefore, prices have gone up, making it difficult for the industry as well. So, the industry needs to be cautious. It is about time the Government looks into the multiple taxes, which are a burden on the industry. The DTH industry is the most viable way of helping even the most remote areas of the country. If the multiple taxes are slashed, it would further boost the DTH growth.”
Speaking about Tata Sky’s plans, Mehra said, “We will continue to launch new channels, launch new interactive channels, high definition channels and other initiatives and will continue to give maximum value to our customers. The industry is likely to take off in a big fashion in 2009 with more competition, which will lead to more advertisers and eventually more value to consumers.”
He continued, “We need to give consumers more value than discounts. It is all about quality of service and the right price that needs to be issued rather than mere discounts. DTH is not a cheap product, but quality of the product should be the right price.”
Behl elaborated, “Big TV aims to become the leading forefront of the public entertainment brand in every household in India and we also aim to set the tone of the future of digital and entertainment. We expect more competitors to enter the field as more the competition, the better it is for the growth of the industry in 2009 and onwards.”
“What the industry needs to focus is how to continue to keep themselves relevant and differentiated for the mass audience versus the analog cable. It is the combination of quality and quantity of content, a great user interface and competitive value that I believe the industry together needs to work upon,” he added.
What began as a price war earlier this year has eventually turned into focus on quality and quantity of service. The industry, however, is quite enthusiastic about new players jumping into the fray, and with more players set to enter the market, the scenario will only get more interesting to watch.