DTH operators battle to woo mobile TV viewers

Written by Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 29 2013, 09:14am hrs
After successfully managing to secure over 60 million DTH subscribers among them over past seven years, now the half a dozen direct-to-home operators are locked in a bitter battle to capture the attention of their customers on their mobile phones and tablets.

Sample this: Around 1 million DTH subscribers are already logging on to their smartphones and tablets to watch the DTH feed. The six private DTH companies Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct, Videocon D2H and Reliance Digital have either launched applications for smartphones and tablets or are on the verge of doing so to engage and interact with not only their own subscriber base but also with new smartphone and tablet users.

The reasons for the hurry to capture consumers across multiple screens television, laptops, smartphones and tablets are two-fold, say DTH operators. One, to open up an add-on revenue stream as all such applications come with a monthly subscription fees; and second, to reach out to a mass base of users of these smart devices so as to earn from targeted mobile advertising.

Various industry reports suggest that the number of smartphones in India is expected to cross the 100-million mark before the end of the current financial year. Airtel, which also operates its DTH service under the Digital TV brand name, has been operating a separate Mobile TV application which allows its subscribers to watch live and recorded shows anytime on the go.

Around 30 million of the DTH subscriber base uses either smartphones, computers or tablets with high-speed Internet connections. Many are located in metros and the top 20 cities and these are the new subscribers who will not mind shelling out R50-150 to access live television or popular shows on their devices. Therefore, we are seeing a race between DTH operators to tap into this new revenue stream, said a senior analyst who tracks media companies.

Dish TV claims to be the first one to launch the application to watch TV Anywhere Anytime on smartphones (on Android and iOS platforms).

Dish TV launched DishOnline App on October 3 and, since its launch, the total downloads of this app have crossed 2.5 lakh.

According to Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer, Dish TV India, this trend in India is in line with the global market where device shift for TV content consumption is clearly visible from one TV to multi-screen TV/ Tablets/ smartphones/ laptops. New products such as these have a tremendous potential to grow and we look forward to capturing even wider subscriber base in the times to come, Kapoor said.

DishOnline, like every other DTH app, is a full-fledged OTT (over the top) streaming application that provides what the company terms as unlimited entertainment on the go. Close on the heels, rival Tata Sky too launched what it calls Everywhere TV on October 26. Vikram Mehra, chief commercial officer, Tata Sky, said: Our research has shown that lifestyles are getting busier in todays day and age. People spend hours in transit or waiting daily. Today, over 60% of Tata Sky population uses internet to view videos on their smartphones and tablets either at home or office. Everywhere, TV is a unique service for all those valued subscribers who want to keep in touch with their favourite shows, programmes and channels that they have subscribed on Tata Sky even when they are on move through their mobile handsets.

The app from Tata Sky has already crossed 300,000 downloads, claims the company. Number of downloads for Tata Skys Mobile app for Everywhere TV saw staggering heights with over 1 lakh subscribers within two weeks of its launch. Today, it stands at 3 lakh downloads already, it said in a statement. According to Tata Sky, the app was rated as the leading app on the Apple store in November. The highest number of downloads have been recorded of close to 10,000 in a day, it said.

Airtel has already been in the service of providing Mobile TV where subscribers can watch live television channels and movies at low prices.

Explaining the relevance of mobile as a television viewing device, Govind Rajan, chief marketing officer, consumer business, Bharti Airtel (India), said: Today, while the mobile phone is an indispensible 24X7 companion for customers across age groups and geographies, each individuals preferences and usage requirements differ.

As per the findings of Airtel Mobitude 2013, Mobile TV witnessed the highest traction this year with a whopping 400% plus jump in viewership over last year. Viewers were glued to entertainment channels, most to catch up on all their favuorite TV shows and this witnessed an unbeatable traction of over 800% over sports and about 200% over news, said a statement by Airtel.