Did You Know that India ranks as the second largest market in Asia for subscription TV channels?
This should not surprise you.
Over 68 million households and individuals in the country watch subscription channels over Direct-To-Home (DTH) satellite TV systems.
In fact, the number of DTH subscribers in India is expected to grow rapidly at speed of 16 percent per year till 2020, according to various sources, including Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
What is DTH or D2H?
Before you know top DtH companies in the country you need to know what D2H is.
DTH or D2H means Direct to Home, A wireless transmission of satellite TV broadcasting directly to the personal dish antenna placed on their rooftop.
Therefore you don’t need a cable operator because you can subscribe directly to a D2H service and watch all the channels.
There are huge benefits of D2H service like you can watch high-quality videos, you can also record videos and watch it later, low pricing because you pay for what you watch, get flexible packages so you don’t have to watch channels that you wouldn’t like to watch otherwise.
Moreover, you don’t have to deal with your cable operator every month.
Here are companies that will benefit most from the expected growth in DTH TV.
List of Top DTH Service Providers in India
Since the Indian government permitted telecom services providers and large business houses to offer DTH services, many entered this business.
The first fully commercial DTH service in India was launched in 2003. Since then, several companies began offering DTH connections.
A lot of those companies are extinct today. Only a handful survive. These few surviving companies provide direct signals from complex constellations of satellites orbiting the Earth to your home.
Dish TV has the unique distinction of launching India’s first Direct-To-Home TV system. On October 2, 2003, Dish TV began the service by offering some 60 analogue channels.
The company decided to focus on semi-urban and rural markets of India where cable TV was not available.
Dish TV is a subsidiary of Zee Entertainment Enterprises. Hence, rival networks did not allow it to telecast their channels in earlier days.
In 2011, Dish TV found the 437th spot on Fortune 500 India list and at No-5 in media and entertainment category. In 2016, Dish TV became part of Videocon d2H.
In case you did not know, Tata Sky is a Joint Venture company between Tata & Sons and American media and entertainment giant, 20th Century Fox, who also owns the Star TV network. Singapore’s Temasek Holdings has a 10 percent stake in this JV.
Tata Sky is the second DTH operator in India. Tata Sky began its DTH services on August 8, 2008.
Despite lagging in DTH launch, Tata Sky has several firsts to its credit. On January 9, 2015 Tata Sky became the first Indian DTH operator to provide 4K Set Top Boxes (STBs) to customers.
Earlier, in March 2009, the ISO 27001:2005 certification was won by Tata Sky. This ISO certification is the highest in the world for information security.
Airtel Digital TV
The third company to enter India’s booming DTH market is Airtel Digital TV from the country’s largest mobile services provider.
Airtel Digital TV made its mark in the DTH market on October 2, 2008. Keeping in line with the brand identity, Airtel Digital TV airs digital satellite TV and music to Indian households.
It also has several firsts to its credit. These include the launch of India’s first High Dynamics recorder for DTH in 2010.
Airtel Digital TV is also the first to provide universal remote controllers for its subscribers. This allows viewers to control their TV and STB using a single remote.
Videocon d2h is all set to emerge as India’s biggest DTH operator. The reason: In December 2017, Videocon d2h bought over Dish TV.
Both the companies are operating as separate entities till the second quarter of the financial year 2023-2019 despite merger on March 27, 2023. Videocon d2h and Dish TV have a combined base of 29 million DTH subscribers in India.
If you are looking at genuine HD experience, you may also consider Videocon d2h. The company has been offering HD telecasts since 2009.
It uses the MPEG-4 technology and sources its signals from a constellation of satellites that provide HD telecasts.
Videocon d2h is known as ‘Asia’s Most Promising DTH Brand’ an accolade given by World Consulting and Research Corporation.
Maybe you are unaware of this fact: Sun Direct was very quick to launch DTH services in India.
It made its mark in 2007 by offering DTH services in south India. Sun Direct soon spread its wings to enter other markets.
It remains the most economical DTH service in India, with basic packages beginning from Rs.75 per month while the cheapest premium subscription is Rs.159 per month.
Sun Direct is the pioneer in launching High Dynamics (HD) telecasts on DTH. These HD telecasts are possible since Sun Direct sources its TV signals from the GSAT-15 satellite.
At one point of time, Sun Direct beat all other DTH providers because of its HD telecasts and low subscription costs to emerge as largest network in India.
Reliance Digital TV/ Independent TV
India’s corporate giant, Reliance Group began its DTH services in August 2008 with a brand rightly called Big TV.
At one time, Big TV gave more than 250 channels for its subscribers- the highest in India at the time.
Reliance Big TV was not affected by the rivalry between satellite TV networks and hence, could offer the biggest channel package.
Over the years, Big TV’s name has been changed to Reliance Digital TV. Within a year of its launch, Big TV won more than one million customers.
In January 2023, Pantel Technologies & Veecom Media bought Reliance Digital TV from its parent company, Reliance Communications Ltd.
While the old brand continues, the new owners are looking at rebranding this DTH service as Independent TV.
In a bid to ensure high-quality entertainment is accessible to all Indians, state-owned broadcaster, Prasar Bharati offers the DD Free Dish.
DD Free Dish
Should you be an avid TV viewer but cannot afford DTH subscription, ask for a DD Free Dish. This service is provided by India’s state-owned telecaster, Doordarshan.
DD Free Dish was launched on December 16, 2004 and was provided to schools, village panchayats, town halls and government offices during initial stages.
Over the last few years, DD Free Dish is available to the general public.
You can buy a DD Free Dish DTH system from the open market at prices ranging between Rs.500 and Rs.1,800, depending upon quality of the STB.
After the latest update, DD Free Dish gets you 64 TV channels (in MPEG-2 format) and 29 radio channels.
Good News/ Bad News
While you would be thrilled to know India ranks second in Asia as the largest subscription TV channel market, here is some news.
DTH and cable TV subscriptions in India are likely to decline after 2020, a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) says.
Now, this holds both good and bad news for you. Let us look at the bad news first.
Modern technologies such as Over-The-Air (OTA) antenna, latest technologies including Amazon Fire TV stick and Amazon Fire TV Cube, High Definition Multimedia Interfaced TV sets and smartphones are expected to play havoc with DTH in coming years.
DTH and latest technologies will wage wars over only one major factor- pricing.
It will most likely be won by any system that offers the broadest possible range of entertainment at the lowest prices.
This may cause DTH providers to trim operations to keep prices lower or introduce more technologically advanced services.
This expected war could lead to a drop in DTH subscription rates, is the good news.
The PwC report says, over 800 regional and national TV channels flourish in India. This country also has a high rate of TV proliferation- around 61 percent.
This leaves ample scope for DTH companies to expand subscriber base. Whether or not DTH companies can cash in on this market is an altogether different story.