We have come a long way from turning and twisting of bulky TV antennas to synchronize our TV signals to the nearest TV tower, to watch a handful of programs on state sponsored Doordarshan TV channel.
With the dawn of the new millennium (November 2000 to be precise), entertainment and variety starved Indian population got the gift of DTH. Although the actual launch of the first DTH service could take place only after 3 years in October 2003 after government permitted DTH services in late 2000.
We did have the options of cable TV, the unorganized entertainment sector which mushroomed in the 1990s, in between the Doordarshan and DTH timeline.
However, who could have imagined 20 years back that with only a few hundred rupees anyone can have his or her personal dish directly downloading content from satellite networks in the sky beaming to their drawing rooms on their slim HD TVs at the flick of a remote button.
Today India is the largest DTH market in the world by the paid subscriber numbers, almost 6.7 crore paid subscribers spread across 6 paid DTH service companies, as on September 2017. With the advent of technology and growth in disposable incomes across all spectrums of Indian population, DTH services gradually have become a necessity instead of luxury.
So what is DTH and how is it different from the erstwhile options. The evolution is akin to using a word processing software to type content on a tablet against writing with a pen on a piece of paper.
The advantages of DTH is the inbuilt flexibility and independence of choosing content from hundreds of channels in multiple languages offering content across all kinds of genres. However, the channel packaging is done as per the demographic distribution across the country. Eg. North India would have different packaging of channels as compared to south and vice versa, popular TV genres in North remains Hindi Entertainment, Hindi News and Kids channels. Besides this packaging it is also mandatory for DTH operators to offer all channels as a-la-carte option, as stipulated by the government giving more flexibility of choice to the consumers. As of December 2017, a whopping 877 private satellite TV channels are permitted across India with 778 permitted to uplink from and downlink to India. Out of these 877 channels 389 are News and current affairs channels.
The top 3 DTH players with respect to consumer base are Airtel (one of the top 3 in mobile telephony as well), Dish TV and Tata Sky. When we look at adoption of latest technology and features, here also these 3 players offer value to their subscribers. The sea change has been in terms of transformation of picture clarity from SD format to HD and now ultra HD or 4k supported by Dolby Digital sound. Then the option of recording programs or having an option to view missed programs is also supported by Airtel besides Tata Sky. With the growing demand for quality content in advanced audio video formats DTH market is poised for explosive growth.