DTH Firms Struggle as Subscriber Base Shrinks by 3.28 Million in FY24, Says Report

India's direct-to-home (DTH) industry faces a major setback as four private operators collectively lost 3.28 million active subscribers in FY24
Dish TV, DTH services
Dish TV, DTH services

DTH (direct-to-home) firms might be losing their edge in the market. In FY24, four private operators witnessed a decline of 3.28 million active subscribers, despite the boost from the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup.

The decline in subscribers was largely owing to major streaming platforms offering free services, JioCinema streaming the IPL and Disney+ Hotstar streaming the ICC CWC for free. Meanwhile, broadcasters raised prices, further impacting subscriber numbers. This led DTH operators to pass on the higher costs to consumers, as per a report by the Economic Times.

Traditionally, DTH platforms have relied on major sporting events to attract and retain customers, but the availability of free cricket streaming has hindered their ability to use live cricket as a draw for new subscribers.

The number of active pay DTH subscribers decreased by nearly 5 per cent in FY24, falling to 61.97 million from 65.25 million in FY23, as per a report by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI).

In the quarter ending March, the active pay DTH subscriber base declined by 2.4 per cent quarter-over-quarter, dropping by 1.55 million to 61.97 million.

The Indian DTH industry, which includes four private operators and one government-owned operator, is experiencing a major decline in its subscriber base. This downturn is driven by high competition from Prasar Bharati-owned DD Free Dish and over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Prime Video. OTT platforms are attracting higher-end customers, while DD Free Dish is drawing away lower-end pay DTH customers.

Tata Play has already hit a snag with a 5.39 per cent year-on-year dip in its subscriber base, now standing at 20.15 million. In contrast, Bharti Airtel's DTH division was the only operator to buck the trend, recording a 1 per cent increase in subscriber base, reaching 17.63 million.

However, Dish TV suffering the steepest decline among DTH providers with an 11 per cent drop, leaving it with 12.67 million subscribers. Sun Direct, backed by Sun TV Network's Kalanithi Maran, also faced a setback with a 6.27 per cent drop, bringing its subscriber count down to 11.5 million.

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