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Tata Sky ready for customer influx with metro digitisation

Tata Sky is preparing for an influx of new subscribers to its direct to home (DTH) satellite TV service in the run up to the mandatory digitisation this year of the cable network in India's four metros.

With analogue switch off in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata scheduled for 30 June 2012, households will be seeking new digital TV services. Tata Sky is, the company says, ready to cater to that demand, with enough set top boxes and improved customer service underway.

"We are training sufficient number of people in installing the set top boxes as well as the call centre employees," Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky told reporters in Chennai.

The mandatory digitisation of India's vast cable TV network – under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act 2011 – will be completed in four phases, beginning with the four metros this June. The second phase, to be completed by 31 March 2013, will be for 38 cities with populations of over one million. Nationwide digitisation is scheduled to be complete by the end of December 2014.

Mehra said that it is not only the metros which are contributing new subscribers, revenues from rural India and tier-II locations are also on the rise. "For Tata Sky, 50% of the sales come outside Tier-II cities," he told reporters.

The trend towards wanting good quality high definition (HD) TV images, and personal video recording to allow viewers to watch programmes at their convenience, will become key to India's broadcast market in the future, believes Mehra. Currently, he says, it's a question of educating consumers that these services are available with digital TV services.

A digital set top box with interactive features is currently available from Tata Sky at a cost of INR 1,000.

However, digitisation provides not only greater quality and more options for TV viewers, there are benefits across the board.

"Post-digitisation, there will not be under-declaration of subscribers by the cable operators. Hence the government would gain in terms of tax revenue and broadcasters would also gain in terms of increased revenue," said Mehra.

Tata Sky currently has about 8.5 million subscribers – making it India's second largest DTH operator after Dish TV. Mehra said he expects by June 2012, the DTH industry will add around 10 million customers to its current 45 million.

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