Tata Sky, a joint venture between Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV network and Tata Group, one of India’s biggest industrial houses, on Tuesday became the third company to offer Direct-to-Home (DTH) services in the country after launching India’s costliest service in this arena.
The 20bn rupee (£225m) joint venture, Tata Sky follows Zee-backed Dish TV and DD Direct Plus from Prasar Bharati.
Emphasizing on the market dominated by cable operators and terrestrial channels, Vikram Kaushik, chief executive of Tata Sky, said “We have an almost unlimited potential here. More than 60m homes are connected to cable, but 110m homes do not have a TV set.”
The company rolled out its services with a 55-channel offering to consumers at an introductory offer of Rs. 200 per month. The service is to begin in 300 Indian cities and be rolled out across the country over the next year, Mr Kaushik said.
For hardware (a “pizza-sized” satellite dish and Set-top-box including installation), consumers will have to pay Rs. 3,999. Its competitor Dish TV offers its hardware and installation at Rs. 3,190 (excluding taxes) and three months free subscription. The basic offering of 100 channels costs Rs. 180 per month on Dish TV. DD Direct’s free-to-air DTH service costs Rs. 2,200 with 35 TV and 12 radio channels.
Tata Sky is not the first DTH operator in India, rather Zee Networks, which owns popular news and entertainment channels, introduced its service, Dish TV, two years ago and has 1.3 million subscribers.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accountancy firm, forecasts up to 10 million Indian households will subscribe to “direct-to-home” TV by 2010.
Zee has also become involved in a dispute with Tata Sky over access to its channels.
Neither company offers the other’s programmes. Zee executives said price issues had delayed an agreement between the two companies and Star had in effect declined to be part of the Dish TV platform.
Star’s share of the distribution company Tata Sky is limited to 20% because it is also a broadcaster in the country.