The Subhash Chandra-promoted ASC Enterprises, India’s first direct-to-home (DTH) service, was launched on October 2, 2003. Dish TV, the DTH arm of ASC Enterprises, now claims more than one million subscribers and is upbeat about future prospects.
Jawahar Goel, who spearheads the venture, believes that it is a good alternative to cable TV, especially in the far flung areas where cable operators have not yet invested. Says he, “DTH is an effective means of reaching television to people in rural as well as cable frustrated markets. Cable frustrated markets are ones where cable operators do not provide good service or the picture quality is not good.”
As per Goel, Dish TV is charging 220 rupees per subscriber for 48 channels. These payments need to be made three months in advance. He reveals plans to bring more channels on DTH platform in the near future. “We are enhancing our channel capacity and from May we will add 48 more channels. We would make the channels available in tier 1 tier, 2 and tier 3,” he says.
Do people want to increase channels? They seem happy with the current fare and would not pay more. As for the set top box required for DTH connection, the box is priced at Rs 3200. States Goel, “We are working on two three schemes as far as providing STBs is concerned – we are offering them on rental as well as easy instalments.”
ASC Enterprise is in the process of strengthening distribution and dealer network across rural India with the stated aim of reaching an estimated 40 million TV households that are out of cable and satellite TV reach.
Dish TV, meanwhile has tied up with its own group company, Intrex India to facilitate a multipurpose pre-paid cash card, ITZ Cash for its distributors and to allow consumers to pay for installation and monthly subscription online. At present, the cards are being used only by distributors. ITZ Cash cards are now available through the 88 Asian Sky Shop franchisee network and would be soon available with 3700 Dish TV dealers.
Goel explains the logic: “In various parts of the country, it might become necessary to tie-up with different banks. To have one single payment platform, and make it possible even on holidays, ITZ cash card was introduced. It’s being used for B2B payments between Dish TV and dealers since the last three months, and it is working very well. Deals worth 15 to 18 lakh go thru ITZ cash cards every day.”