Few weeks back, news reports, quoting the data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) stated that more than 20 million direct to home (DTH) users cancelled their connections.
But the regulatory body refuted those claims, saying that the media report has miscalculated the basis for calling someone a subscriber.
The data that TRAI is referring to, was released in October, which mentioned that, as of 30 June 2019, the total count of DTH users in the country was 54.26 million. This was seen as a massive drop from over 72 million users, reported in March this year.
However, the real story turns out to be quite different.
“At the outset, it is clarified that these reports don’t compare same set of data and therefore conclusion derived is wrong,” TRAI highlighted in its press release.
As reported in early 2019, there are four listed DTH players Tata Sky, Sun Direct, Airtel Digital TV and Dish d2H, and out of this Dish TV (India) Limited, Bharti Airtel Limited (Airtel), reported a muted subscriber addition of 1.3 million in CY H1 2019.
With this, TRAI pointed out that the DTH subscriber base had grown from 55.98 million subscribers in December 2015 to 72.44 million, as of March 2019. So, when the report was updated with 54.24 million as the figures post June 2019, the media didn’t see through TRAI’s mechanism of counting the number of users.
It is clearly stated that average active subscriber base means the number arrived by averaging the active subscriber base for a month (as on 7th day, 14th day, 21st day, 28th day, of the month). Till March, a user activating service once in 120 days was counted in. TRAI reduced that to 90 days starting April.―TRAI statement
The regulator further clarified that the marginal drop in subscriber numbers had a lot do with closing down of Anil Ambani-owned DTH services M/s Independent TV Ltd. That decline partly resulted in TRAI changing the definition of subscriber, as mentioned in the above statement.
The total subscriber base of QE June 2019 is 68.92 million (now temporarily suspension period not more than 90 days) in comparison to 72.44 million (temporarily suspension period not more than 120 days) for QE March 2019.―TRAI statement
People Ditching DTH for OTT Platforms?
To answer this question, we browsed through more data published by the TRAI, and turns out, DTH players still continue to add users.
The regulatory body said that Tata Sky added 30 lakh new active subscribers between April to June, attaining 32 percent market share in the Indian DTH market. While Sun Direct added 9 lakh users, Airtel TV added 4 lakh users, and Dish d2H added 2 lakh users during the same period.
TRAI also pointed out there are 331 pay channels as on 30 June, 2019, which includes 233 SD (standard definition) pay TV channels and 98 HD (high definition) pay TV channels.
Many expected that with the new DTH tariffs making monthly bills expensive by over 25 percent, people might decide to cut their connections. But as these numbers suggest, that’s yet to happen.
And TRAI needs to make sure DTH players manage to improve the situation at their end, to make sure that the user has the freedom to pick the channels they want to pay, and those they want to remove.
In all likelihood, we’ll see trends in the segment, where DTH and OTT app users co-exist and keep the traditional markets relevant in the future.―The Quint