DTH SALES DECLINE SHARPLY
The Indian Cable TV industry has seen disappointing offtake of digital STBs since July 2016. The DAS Phase-3 deadline was extended by the Government but did not result in any significant increase in STB offtake. Now DAS Phase-4 and the complete country will shut off analog cable TV on 31st March, 2017. Still there does not seem to be a strong demand for STBs.
Some within the Indian cable TV industry speculate that there has been an exodus of analog cable TV customers to DTH platforms since July last year, which has resulted in poor digital cable TV STB sales.
However, sales figures of DTH platforms indicate that the offtake of DTH STBs since July 2016 has also been very poor, in fact much worse than a year earlier.
The 6 private DTH operators are expected to end FY17 with an addition of 9.5 million gross subscribers as against 11.3 million a year ago. Indian DTH platforms loose almost 50% of the subscribers they add. Hence DTH will have added less than 5 million net subscribers during FY 2016-17.
On the net subscriber front, the 3 DTH operators combined have seen a 17.05% fall in net subscribers during the first 9 months of FY17, falling to 2.63 million from 3.17 million a year ago.
Some DTH pundits blame demonetisation for the poor DTH STB sales. However, demonetisation was declared on November 8, while DTH STB sales have slumped since July 2016.
Dish TV said its subscriber numbers would have been (only) 8-10% higher in the quarter ended 31 December 2016 if there was no demonetisation. Clearly 90% of the slump is not linked to demonetisation.
2016 & 2017 SALES
Dish TV, Airtel DTH & Videocon are publicly held companies and therefore declare their subscriber numbers.
TataSky and Sun TV are privately held & not required to declare their numbers.
Reliance DTH has not increased it subscriber count for the past 12 months, and hence has no contribution to DTH grown in recent times.
Dish TV, Airtel DTH & Videocon d2h added 17% less, i.e. only 2.63 million net DTH Subs in the first 9 months of FY17, compared to 3.17 million a year ago.
Table-1 summarises net DTH subscribers for the first 3 quarters for the past 2 years, for the 3 publicly held DTH platforms.
ARPUS DOWN TOO
The past 9 months have also yielded lower ARPUs.
Dish TV's ARPU plummeted from Rs. 174 in 2017 Q-1 to Rs. 151 in Q-3.
Videocon d2h & Airtel DTH were less affected. Quarter-wise ARPUs are detailed in Table-2.
END OF PAY TV STBS?
Both digital cable TV and DTH STBs have seen very poor off take since July 2016. This seems to indicate that most of the homes that planned to migrate to digital have already done so. Beyond this, the market is likely to see only incremental gains.
Only 70 million (50%) homes have migrated to digital leaving approx. 70 million analog TV homes as on end March 2017.
As indicated by us last month, we believe that these 70 million analog TV homes do not see value in shifting to digital. The only choice for them now, will be to receive FreeDish signals on a Free-to-Air basis. For this they will need a onetime purchase of the FreeDish hardware.
FreeDish has repeatedly defaulted in its promise to provide more than 200 TV channels.
Recently, FreeDish has further complicated the situation by declaring that its MPEG-4 STBs will require iCAS encryption.
If FreeDish can quickly get its act together both for STBs and 200 FTA Channels, it can easily win over 70 million uncommitted Analog TV households and become, by far, India's largest DTH platform. n