Sun Direct, the 80:20 direct-to-home (DTH) joint venture between the Maran family and Malaysia’s Astro Group, has made substantial inroads, tussling with Zee group’s Dish TV and No. 2 player Tata Sky and claiming the number two slot already, thanks to a price war it launched with a free start-up offer.
Sun Direct has grown at a rapid pace threatening to soon leave behind the number two player. Launched in December 2007, it claims to have crossed the 3 million mark, with an active subscriber base of 3.1 million subscribers.
Dish TV in India, has 5 million subscribers. Tata Sky, which launched in August 2006 has reached the 3.5 million mark, said its chief marketing officer Vikram Mehra, while Reliance’s Big TV has crossed the 1 million mark.
“This (latest data) achievement qualifies us to be the No.2 DTH service provider. In 2009-10, we look forward to occupy the pole position. We have added more customers than any other DTH player in the last one year,” said Tony D’Silva, chief operating officer of Sun Direct.
Tata Sky cautions that there are perils of playing the pricing strategy. “Players who have been gaining subscribers by giving free subscription may witness a churn once the free period is over.”
While the DTH market in India is witnessing robust growth, all the players are incurring heavy losses. For the quarter ended December 31, 2008, Dish TV incurred a loss of Rs. 1,178.68 crore.
Dish’s chief operating officer Salil Kapoor said, “We are EBITA positive (earnings before interest, tax and amortisation) now. To turn cash positive, we will take another year.”
Sun Direct on Wednesday became the first DTH player to launch high-definition services, with Tamil and Telugu movies in the startup phase with a different set-top box that will cost Rs. 10,000.