DTH counters dipping subscriptions: Games, smart homes and OTT dictate agenda

Updated on Sep 30, 2022 07:35 PM IST

Rising costs of paying for TV channels, largely due to the current tariff order which has complicated package structures too, is one of the reasons for DTH services facing the heat

Tata Play, India’s biggest DTH player with around 33.23% market share, has focused on the Binge platform since 2020. (Tata Play)
Tata Play, India’s biggest DTH player with around 33.23% market share, has focused on the Binge platform since 2020. (Tata Play)

Direct to home (DTH) services are responding to the urgent need to evolve, as consumer interest in paying for one-dimensional linear TV subscriptions, continues to wane. Attempts to widen the value of subscriptions, has seen bundling of streaming apps including Amazon Prime, Sony Liv and Disney+ Hotstar, as well as home security added to the options list. Now, mobile games are part of the package. It is no longer just about TV.

Tata Play has now put gaming on the agenda. The partnership with game publisher Gamezop now brings 100 mobile game titles to the Tata Play Binge platform. Some popular ones include Boulder Blast, Bowling Stars, Bottle Shoot, Tower Twist, Ludo With Friends, Colour Chase, and City Cricket.

“With this strategic alliance, Gamezop will serve as the exclusive gaming center within the Tata Play Binge app and sit right next to major OTT platforms,” said Ankit Saxena, chief revenue officer, at the game developer. These games will be available within the Tata Binge app on smartphones and tablets.

Dip in numbers: What’s hurting DTH?

India has 66.92 million active DTH user base, according to the latest Performance Indicator Report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). DTH services have been facing the heat, particularly over the last year. At the end of the quarter ending September 2021, India’s total active DTH subscriber base was pegged at 68.89 million. This reduced to 68.52 million by the quarter ending December last year.

Rising costs of paying for TV channels, largely due to the current tariff order which has complicated package structures too, is one of the reasons. Thereby the need to widen scope to extract more value from each monthly subscription. Some DTH players are more active than others.

Going beyond TV: OTT bundles and gaming

Tata Play, India’s biggest DTH player with around 33.23% market share, has focused on the Binge platform since 2020, when the company launched a new Android TV powered set top box that allowed access to streaming apps alongside Live TV. Ad-free subscriptions for these apps, start at 59 per month, depending on bundles. The newly added games are a free addition to existing Binge plans.

“We want Tata Play Binge to be synonymous to all things entertainment and this step is a logical progression in the same direction,” Pallavi Puri, chief commercial and content officer, Tata Play Ltd, told HT.

Airtel has also invested heavily in the Xstream subscription platform, which includes OTT platforms such as Lionsgate Play, Sony Liv, DocuBay and Eros Now, to name a few. The streaming is available on the smarter Android TV STBs as well as mobile and tablet apps.

DTH subscription numbers recorded an increase between the quarters ending March and June last year, from 69.57 million to 69.86 million, but have been on a downward trajectory since.

India has four big DTH players. Tata Play is the leader, closely followed by Airtel Xstream (26.24% share), Dish TV (22.10% share; includes the d2h merger) and Sun Direct (18.43% share).

Home security: Getting in early on the niche

Airtel Xstream and Tata Play have also launched home security bundles, over the past few weeks. Airtel’s XSafe and Tata Play’s Secure+ bundle home security cameras and monitoring solutions, complete with installation, maintenance, and monitoring apps.

“All a customer needs to activate this smart monitoring system is a stable Wi-Fi connection and a plug point to power the camera,” an Airtel spokesperson said. Airtel said the solution is created in-house and the functionality is deployed on their own cloud platform. The functionality portfolio includes AI-based person and object detection, high-definition video streaming, a two-way talk option, perimeter zoning and motion detection.

Tata Play’s Secure+ service has the Google’s Nest cameras in India, exclusively for now.The cameras use intricate artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, familiar face detection, HDR and night vision, and configurable activity zones.

“These deliver a great experience thanks to our deep innovations in on-device machine learning, an intuitive user experience, and the highest level of privacy and security that gives people complete control over the information they share,” said Saurabh Arya, chief of hardware business development (India & South Asia) at Google.

There is a definite attempt to widen the scope to include fragmented services within one bill, something that will also help DTH companies drive up the average revenue per user (ARPU) numbers. Reducing costs as part of the bundling, will be key. Tata Play, earlier this year, voluntarily downgraded DTH subscriptions for almost 19 million subscribers, removing packs and channels they don’t watch, to reduce subscription costs by around 100 per month.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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