India set to outstrip US in DTH subscribers – but not in profits news
04 October 2010

India will replace the US as the world's largest direct-to-home (DTH) market in the next six months, hitting over 32 million subscribers within the first quarter of the next calendar year, according to a report. In 2009, there were 130 million DTH subscribers across the globe and the number grew by 14 per cent, according to international studies.

Also, the high-definition DTH revolution will explode in India much earlier than most pundits had predicted. Operators say by 2014, more than 10 per cent of the 50 million subscribers of DTH in India will be on high-definition DTH.

Jahawar Goel, managing director of Dish TV, the country's largest DTH service provider, told Business Standard, ''As a category, DTH services is adding around 1 million subscribers every month. India will overtake the US in terms of sheer volume by early next year.''

Goel says that the half-a-dozen DTH operators in the country currently command over 28 million subscribers and expect to touch around 30 million by the end of this year. Looking at the pace of growth, they will overtake the US within the first three months of next calendar year, adds Goel. Moreover, he points out, the market in the US is not growing at all.

A similar view is endorsed by Tata Sky, which says the DTH industry has already grown by over 25 per cent in the first six months of the year. ''Tata Sky itself has added on about a million subscribers," said Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer of the company. And he predicts that in the next six months, the industry will have over 33 million subscribers.

However, just like in telecommunications, it might take at least another two to three years before operators, who are at present reeling under losses of over Rs6,000 crore, will be able to haul themselves back into the black. That is because most operators have invested large sums of money to build infrastructure and on the cost of acquiring subscribers (which still includes subsidising the set-top box), even while tariffs are falling. Global average revenue per user for DTH is $45.

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India set to outstrip US in DTH subscribers – but not in profits