Pay TV Churn Makes Tata Sky India’s No. 1 DTH Operator

As India’s pay television market shrunk amid a churn, Tata Sky Ltd. became India’s largest direct-to-home services provider by subscribers.

Tata Sky added 3 million average active subscribers in the three months ended June, according to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. That gives it 32 percent market share, dethroning Dish TV India Ltd.

All DTH operators saw an increase in active subscribers—average of paying users on day 7, 14, 21 and 28 of a month—with such users rising 3.17 million to 54.26 million as of June industrywide.

That comes as the new TV tariff rules giving subscribers the freedom to pay for channels they choose and better digital tracking of users have changed preferences. Cable TV subscribers are either switching to DTH or consider video-streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. To counter the data threat, DTH operators have started offering Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Eros Now as bundled-in service to protect users. Dish D2H is the latest to launch a hybrid set-top box providing access to Amazon Prime.

What could have also helped is users moving from DD Free Dish to paid operators. DD Free Dish, operated by state-run broadcaster Prasar Bharati and with 15 million subscribers, has taken off paid channels after March 31 after the new tariff rules.

Total Subscribers Fall

Still, the number of DTH subscribers, including free and paid users, fell in the quarter ended June, partly because of improved tracking of subscribers, the new tariff regime and a changed way to count subscribers.

Total subscriber count stood at 68.92 million as of June, according to data released by TRAI. That compares with 72.44 million as of March.

That decline partly reflects the change in the definition of a subscriber. Till March, a user activating service once in 120 days was counted in. TRAI reduced that to 90 days starting April.

The telecom regulator, in its statement, also attributed the fall due to suspension of Independent TV, run by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group. Independent TV had 1.34 million active subscribers as on April 1.

Moreover, while the regulator has announced that all pay TV subscribers are tracked via set-top boxes, operators are still converting subscribers with analogue connections to digital subscribers. And many users dumped their second connection as the new rules fix the minimum monthly tariff at Rs 130.

Sun TV Network Ltd., in its first-quarter earnings call, had highlighted that Arasu Cable TV Corporation, the biggest multi-system operator that provides feed to cable operators, saw a big churn as users switched to DTH after the new TV tariff rules.―Bloomberg Quint

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