India lost 2 Mn direct-to-home (DTH) television subscribers in 2019, findings from the Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicator Report October-December 2019 published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) revealed. The segment ended the year with 69.98 Mn subscribers, down from 72.44 Mn in March the same year.
Of the major players in the DTH market, Tata Sky dominated with 31.8% market share, followed by Dish TV (30.55%), Airtel (23.31%) and Sun Direct (14.35%).
TRAI’s New Regulatory Framework Caused Fall In Subscribers
The reasons for the fall in DTH subscribers are seen to be two-fold. First, according to an earlier Inc42 report, is the “New Regulatory Framework” notified by TRAI in December 2018. According to these rules, customers could pick and choose individual channels and pay for them at the Maximum Retail Prices (MRPs) set by the broadcaster, instead of being forced to subscribe to “channel packages” as before. However, this led to complaints from customers about the individual cost of channels going up at the behest of the broadcaster. Consequently, cable bills went up, which led to a 25% fall in subscribers in the April-June quarter last year.
Growing OTT Market Could Lead To Shrinking DTH Subscriber-Base
Secondly, the fall in subscribers can be attributed to the growing market for over-the-top (OTT) video platforms in India. Currently, the number of video-based OTT platforms in India are more than 35. These range from free platforms such as TVFPlay to subscription-based platforms such as Amazon and Netflix. Growing repositories of regional content with local players such as Zee5, AltBalaji, Ullu and Aha among others, means that OTT platforms have a pan-India appeal.
A September 2019 report by KPMG predicts that India will have more than 500 Mn online video subscribers by FY2023. This would make it the second-largest market after China. There is also growing evidence that the COVID-19 induced lockdown could bring about a change in the content consumption habits of the audience, with OTT players experiencing a surge in demand during the past three months.
However, whether the increase in content consumption on OTT platforms brings about a lasting change in the TV-viewing habits of the masses is yet to be seen.