DTH operators ignore the web

Airtel is the latest entrant in the DTH space. Recently Reliance Communications’s Big TV made an entry. Few basic DTH numbers

  • Every month about 300,000 DTH users are being added, compared to 9-10 million mobile users.
  • Current (2008) subscriber base is 6 million, set to grow to 30+ million by 2012.
  • Currently India has 80 million cable TV subscribers.
  • DishTV has around 225 channels and services with registered 3.76 million subscribers. DishTV has a distribution network of about 600 distributors and 45,000 dealers that spans nearly 5,200 towns across the country.
  • All DTH operators are bleeding. They are getting innovative by offering content from banks (about their services), matrimonial portals. It is too early to say whether this kind of content will be consumed. We should give time for this kind of advertising to mature of DTH. Hopefully it will succeed.

DTH  userbase is increasing for each operator without having to tap into their competitor’s userbase. Basically the growth is happening with first time DTH users signing up and not because of users moving between DTH operators. Once you sign up with a DTH operator I think it is safe to assume you are pretty much stuck.

While there are instances when you think “Let me dump the existing dish and move to the “new” operator as it is cheaper”, I haven’t come across anyone who has done it. So if an operator wants to tap into the competitor’s pie then the dish will need to be offered for free and some other incentives need to be provided.

As a consumer I don’t think I would want their service folks to keep visiting my house to change the wirings. I think ultimately all operators will have their packages priced competitively.

DTH and Internet in India

I hope someday DTH can also offer internet to their subscribers. While most of them have been saying they will I have not seen any movement in that direction. By having internet with DTH I think the penetration of internet in India will increase dramatically (not anywhere close to mobile penetration, but something better than what it is now)

Disadvantages of DTH

For those who watch ‘local’ TV channels (local language) DTH may not be a good choice. For e.g. in Kannada you have Kasturi, Suvarna which are not offered on by any of the DTH operators. So most houses have one TV with the traditional cable connection (this increases the cost when compared to having multiple TVs connected to DTH). In fact TataSky doesn’t offer ZeeKannada which by no means is a channel offered by a local TV station. It doesn’t make sense, they have all Zee channels but Zee Kannada because the matter is in the court !

Web Presence

TataSky was one of the early operators, they have a decent site. It works with all browsers. But you cannot do few things that are advertised by them. For e.g. a particular package costs Rs 40 a month and if you buy for one year you pay for 10 months. I wasn’t able to pay for 10 months as there was no option for such a thing. Initially their site was slow but now it is good. They have done a good job on integrating the mobile with their service (renewal, buying additional packages etc).

Reliance’s BigTV works only in IE and not in Firefox. For a company that can afford anything under the sun, should they be building browser specific websites? A Big No. And couldn’t they afford to buy bigtv.in ? In my opinion .co.in is a dead domain extension. It is a boring domain extension. Thanks to the former IT minister Dayanidi Maran we have .in, .org.in extensions.

DishTV doesn’t work in Firefox. Is it that complex to build sites for IE and Firefox (and now Chrome) ? We too face problems at oneindia.in, not everything works exactly the same in all browsers (especially the visual experience) but I think all browsers are able to view our sites and we are not doing anything special to achieve that. Why can’t these big corporations (with deeeeep pockets) do the same?

Airtel is the latest entrant. The link to Digital TV on their main page is just not noticeable,  they should have a small banner for their Digital TV. Also http://www.airtel.in/digitaltv/ doesn’t work, it has to be http://www.airtel.in/digitaltv Why is Airtel not advertising their URL on their TV and Print ads? It will work out cheaper for them if a subscriber browses their website to learn more about their service and then call their operator.

In general on all these sites you cannot easily browse to figure out what are the channels that are offered in each of the packages. There is no way to see all channels by the operator (for e.g. allchannels offered by Zee, Sony). You need to go thru the maze of all logos to figure out if your channel is part of it. Try it on Airtel and you will see it for yourself.

On any of these sites It is difficult to decide the package you want to subscribe to, it would be useful if the user would check/select the channels he/she wants to subscribe to and their backend should tell the user the best package they should be subscribing to. It is not that complex a thing to develop.

Overall, they need to pay a lot more attention to their websites. They are not that ‘far’ from the goal, just a little more effort would satisfy all users.

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