November 2019


According To TRAI's Reports, 18 Million (25%) Active DTH STBs Have Been Shut Down In Just 3 Months.


TRAI, in its January - March, 2019 'The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators' report, (item 5.7) stated "DTH has attained net active subscriber base of around 72.44 million with 5 pay DTH service providers as on 31st March, 2019 as compared to 70.49 million at the end of last quarter. This is in addition to the subscribers of the free DTH services of Doordarshan."

Three months later its April to June, 2019 report (item 5.9) stated "DTH has attained average active subscriber base of around 54.36 million. This is in addition to the subscribers of the DD Free Dish (free DTH services of Doordarshan)."

This points to a loss of 18.08 million active DTH STBs! In just 3 months - April to June 2019, 24.9% of active DTH STBs were switched off.

TRAI's report simply compiles the DTH subscriber numbers submitted to it by private sector DTH players.

In Just 3 Months - April to June 2019, 24.9% Of Active DTH STBs Were Switched Off!

TRAI does not report active Cable TV subscriber numbers, probably because the industry is fragmented, with over 1,000 licensed DAS MSOs. Compiling active STB numbers from just the top 10 MSOs may not yield meaningful figures. Still it is felt by the industry, that TRAI should also report on MSO's subscriber numbers, at least annually.


There is no reason or insight provided by the regulator, in its report, on the reason for the huge and rapid loss. However, the drop in active STBs coincides with the implementation of TRAI's new tariff order.

Industry observers believe the sharp increase in DTH bills, post NTO implementation, have been the root cause of the unprecedented fall in active DTH subscribers, in the April to June 2019 quarter.

DTH Bill have spurted so much, that currently, Airtel DTH's 'All Channel Pack' is priced at a whopping ₹ 1675 per month.


Reports from CRISIL and CARE Ratings showed that post the implementation of the New Tariff Order, instead of seeing a cut in their TV viewing bills, most consumers reported, on an average, about 25% increase in their bills.

This turned some of the smaller channels like Biharbased Dangal TV into the most popularly watched channels overnight, far surpassing the likes of Zee TV, Star TV or even Colors.

Homes Are Probably Shutting Their Additional STBs


Some industry pundits claim that DTH subscribers have migrated to lower cost OTT. However, the figures show that OTT does not provide a cheaper alternate, in the home. Not only are subscriptions for international OTT platforms like Netflix very high, they do not offer any live TV content. Hence it is most unlikely that consumers are switching off DTH for OTT.


The most credible explanation is that consumers have shut off their second & third STBs, particularly in urban homes.

DTH Platforms, have not submitted any insights to TRAI, as this information was not called for by the regulator.


The CEO of a leading MSO, confirmed to us that MSOs too have lost active subscribers in the same - April to June 2019 quarter, though not as many. He feels that the loss is particularly high in multiple STB homes.


According to at least 1 press report, the Jan to March 2019 and earlier numbers were inflated numbers, submitted by DTH platforms to TRAI. DTH players had included STBs that had been discontinued in the past 120 days.

"To bring complete transparency, for the first time, the information related to active subscribers in a month (Monthly Subscription Report) is (being) collected by TRAI from DTH operators. This figure was never collected earlier. The average active subscriber base is now arrived by averaging the active subscriber base for a month (as on 7th day, 14th day, 21st day, and 28th day of the month). However, for the subscriber base published for the quarter ended March 2019, DTH operators included temporarily suspended subscribers who had have not been inactive for more than 120 days," TRAI Secretary SK Gupta was quoted by the press report. The huge sudden loss is not only a concern for DTH & Cable TV but also for Pay channel broadcasters, as their pay revenues will plummet.

The next TRAI report (June to Sept 2019) will certainly be eagerly awaited by the industry. n