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India’s DTH subscribers now top 44 million

The total number of homes subscribing to direct to home (DTH) satellite TV services in India has reached 44.4 million, up from 25 million in 2010, according to Singapore-based consultants Media Partners Asia (MPA).

By the end of 2011, 30% of India's 148 million television households were served by DTH, compared to the 84 million receiving analogue cable TV - according to the new data.

The Zee-owned Dish TV, remains top of the six-strong private DTH market with 28.2% of subscribers (12.5 million). Tata Sky holds second position with an 18.6% market share (8.3 million).

Sun Direct's 7.2 million subscribers place it third in the DTH league with a 16.3% share, chased closely by Airtel Digital TV with 7.1 million subscribers representing 16.1% of the market.

Videocon d2h, which is reportedly planning to sell a minority stake in its operation to a private equity firm, made good progress over the year. It gained 11.4% of India's DTH subscription market with 5.1 million customers, and moved from sixth to fifth position, according to MPA.

Reliance Digital (previously known as Big TV) is now propping at the bottom of the pile with a 9.5% market share (4.2 million subscribers), having suffered – along with Sun Digital – from high churn rates, legacy satellites and funding issues in 2011.

Price increases were levied by India's major DTH operators in November 2011, while also lowering trade margins by INR200-250 per new subscriber. This move should, believes MPA, boost average revenue per user (ARPUs) figures and will help offset the rising subscriber acquisition costs from a depreciating rupee.

The mandatory digitisation of India's cable network could by a catalyst for DTH growth if key issues regarding Ku-band satellite capacity and customer service are addressed, says MPA. Multi system operators (MSOs) are anticipating a 15-20% loss of cable subscribers to DTH during the first phase, which requires the digitisation of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai by June 2012.

Of the DTH operators, only Dish TV and Airtel Digital are adequately placed in terms of channel capacity to cope with the additional demand at present, believes MPA.

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