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India's Leading Source for Broadcasting & Broadband Information - CableQuest Magazine
HomeInterviewsThe Three Screen Strategy

The Three Screen Strategy

Apr 27, 2010
Sugato Banerjee Sugato Banerjee
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Sugato Banerjee, CMO, Airtel Digital TV


C Q. DTH has grown from a high-class niche service to a service for the masses. It has grown tremendously in India. How do you view the Indian DTH in comparison to the rest of the world? 

The DTH industry in India is growing at a healthy rate. Greater reach and innovation in services is and will continue to be the key focus to meet the potential of the industry in the times ahead. The industry is all set for high growth numbers in the future. The number of subscribers is estimated to reach 45 million by 2012 from the current customer base of 20 million in 2010 (as per the latest media reports). 

The Total Paid DTH Market stands at about 22 million today. While the first 5 years ’03-08 saw about 12 mn customers on DTH while the last year-’09 saw about 10 mn-Airtel took a leading share of this and now has over 2.5 mn customers. (Airtel has launched its DTH service in October 2008) The DTH industry at large initially focused on cable-hit areas, targeting cable as competition and therefore stayed focused on the top 300-500 towns and the 70-million plus cable and satellite homes (figures quoted as per the year 2009). 

At the time of its launch, Airtel digital TV targeted 230 million households and all those 150-160 million households that are not part of C&S because they don’t have access to it. The company focused on getting its business from cable-dry places. Sixty per cent of new customer acquisitions come from rural and upcountry markets, outside of the top 300 cities. 

C Q. Telecom players like Bharti and reliance have stepped-in to the field pitted against the broadcast giants like Dish TV & Tata Sky. How do you view this development? & Can India accommodate more DTH players? 

Indian DTH market has seen an exponential growth in the last 6 years. With a total subscriber base of 20 million in 2010, the industry is poised to grow at 45 million subscriber base by 2012. During this period, many new entrants have made their mark in this rapidly growing industry and it has worked towards the benefit of the customer giving them an enhanced viewing experience of international standards. 

Given its large regional and rural population and a healthy demand for DTH service, India is likely to continue being a hub for innovation in technology and service. Bharti Airtel is Asia’s largest integrated telecom service provider, with over 137 million customers. Airtel digital TV has leveraged synergies with the telecom business and expanded our reach, by tapping our large existing telecom distribution channel in tier II and tier III cities. Despite being a 6th entrant, this has given us a big competitive edge. 


C Q. At present there are six DTH operators in the country besides DD Direct. Do you think that there is enough differentiation in their services so as to distinguish one from the other? 

Today the discerning Indian customer is very conscious of the service he opts for and is sensitive to price as well. The winning DTH service is one that offers superior quality, content and interactivity services to its viewers. The quality of service becomes a key differentiator in not only acquiring new subscribers but also retaining them in the long run. 

Airtel digital TV promises to bring magical entertainment into the customer’s home. On offer is a distinctly superior product and also many firsts in TV-viewing. The growing subscriber base is a testimonial of the fact that Airtel digital TV customers across the country have perceived the service as superior and innovative. 

One of the main reasons for Airtel entering the DTH category is its belief in the three-screen strategy. An example would be ‘Getris’- an arcade Puzzle game that is available on all 3 platforms of Airtel i.e. mobile, broadband and DTH –an exemplification of our three screen strategy. Recently, Airtel digital TV became the first to offer recording TV programmes through mobile. Now an Airtel digital TV customer can record their favorite programmes anywhere and anytime, on the go. 


C Q. What are the challenges ahead for the DTH market in the country? How will it be affected by IPTV and Digital cable? 

DTH is the future of home entertainment providing customers more choice, convenience and comfort. With superior quality and interactive features, more and more customers are opting for this service. Not only are the cable-frustrated customers switching over to DTH, but many Non-C&S homes / cable-dark areas are turning to the service for home entertainment. 

The rural market continues to be an opportunity as it was the first to positively respond to the advent of industry. DTH offers the reach, addressability, customer service, better picture quality and a host of value-added services, providing a whole new experience to customers. IPTV too has its share of followers and will see more traction with the furthering of broadband uptake in the country. 

However issues like the current tax regime, cost of content acquisition and the process of involving all stakeholders aligned to the agenda of digitalization will take time. Currently operators pay up to 35% in taxes that include license fees, service tax, customs duty as well as entertainment taxes that vary from state to state. We would also feel that the government’s decision to levy import duty on the set top boxes, may impact the rousing growth of the industry over the past year. 


C Q. When it comes to competition, players devise new marketing strategies to penetrate deeper into the market, what’s yours for the next five years? 

Continuing in our endeavor of bringing magic in our customer’s home, we will focus on our core strengths of: 

1. Technology – we will bring in new products, features that are unique and relevant to the customer's life space. 

2. Content - since content exclusivity is not permitted in India, PPV and Interactive features are the core two differentiators for DTH operators and this is where we will leverage our strengths and continue to operate. 

3. Service focus to ensure customers are getting the best on time.

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