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India’s Dish And Airtel Finalise Merger

The two largest Indian DTH operators, Dish TV and Bharti’s Airtel DTH, have confirmed they are in the final stages of agreeing a long-discussed merger.

The union between Dish and Airtel would create the world’s largest TV distribution company with more than 38 million subscribers and 61% of Indian direct-to-home (DTH) market share.

According to media reports, the deal will see Airtel DTH employ a reverse merger into India’s Dish TV.

Singapore-based telecommunications company Singtel and private equity investment house Warberg Pincus are also involved in the strategic deal.

The discussions have been ongoing for the past few months, with first reports of the deal emerging March this year.

Dish TV completed its merger with Videocon DTH in March last year and Airtel had previously tried to sell its DTH business to Tata Sky but failed to reach an agreement.

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, Dish TV combined with Videocon DTH leads with a 37% market share, followed by Tata Sky with 27% share and Airtel Digital TV with 24% share.

61% of Dish TV is held by Essel Group, an Indian media conglomerate which is valued at more than $10 billion. Chairman and billionaire Subhash Chandra will exit the business completely upon closure of the deal.

In 1992, Chandra launched Zee TV, the first private commercial television channel in the country in association with Star TV in Hong Kong, and Dish TV, the first satellite television provider in India.

The timing of the merger precedes a few weeks out from the launch of Reliance Jio GigaTV – the Internet-based IPTV service from Reliance Jio, reported Telecom Talk. Jio’s business strategy is to offer cheap plans and tariffs to amass more and more subscribers.

Dish TV and Airtel Digital TV are using the merger as a defence strategy against Reliance Jio and its launch of GigaFiber and Giga TV.

Last month, India public service broadcaster Doordarshan announced it is to broadcast in Bangladesh and South Korea as part of a deal struck by the Indian government.

Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar announced a cultural exchange deal that will also see Bangladesh and South Korea’s state channels aired in India on DD Free Dish.

The agreement follows a memorandum of understanding struck between the Indian government and Bangladesh TV in May.―IBC

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