Zee Telefilms continues to see huge growth for its direct-to-home (DTH) platform, DishTV in India, and Chairman Subhash Chandra sees predictss another strong year in 2006.
"In the last year alone, 12 new television channels have been launched," Chandra said. "There is segmentation, and television audiences are becoming particular about what they want to watch. Our platform gives them more choice and flexibility. We have surpassed our target of 2 million subscribers (in June) and are adding more than 3,000 subscribers a day."
Average revenue per user (ARPU), currently in the range of $7 to $10, likely will remain low, but Zee plans to launch new services to boost that number, Chandra said. "Zee is going to offer a global/world class service on par with the best worldwide," he said. "The economy is booming and while base ARPUs will have to be low, there is plenty of opportunity for growth with value-added and premium services. In terms of interactivity, we are also launching a game show very soon."
Chandra believes Zee has had "tremendous" interest in its service and admits that the demand for DTH services surpassed the company's expectations. "We have a fantastic introductory offer that is generating an overwhelming response countrywide -- customized plans, special offers, nationwide campaigns. We have a multi-faceted marketing campaign in place to target specific segments of the population with offers customized to their needs. Awareness of our services is increasing and people are responding enthusiastically to the tremendous amount of choice and flexibility the platform gives them."
Zee also plans to launch personal video recorder services before the end of 2006. "An entire range of advanced services are planned for our platform," he said. As far as next generation services are concerned we are going to lead the way."
Chandra now believes his previous targets of 10 million to 15 million subscribers before the end of the decade were conservative. "I expect the pay-TV subscriber base to increase," he said. "The delivery model in India until now was quite different and this has limited growth and this new platform will lead to new opportunities."
Zee is not likely to have everything all its own way going forward. A new DTH platform, T-Sky, is set to launch in mid year. T-Sky, backed by News Corp., recently signed a deal with NDS to launch interactive services when its service begins, as well as a deal with Thomson for set-top-boxes
"It's a dynamic marketplace, and Zee has the first mover advantage apart from a superior mindshare," Chandra said. "We are going to constantly upgrade and add new services and we are anticipating a fantastic growth period over the next 12 months. When we started our DTH service, we were offering just plain vanilla service. Now we have moved beyond that and are offering video on demand and personal video recorders."
So, with competition on the way as well as Zee likely to bring in a number of advanced services, it promises to be an exciting year for digital television in India. In terms of how the landscape may develop, Chandra commented, "I'm looking forward to the next 12 months. I envisage rapid changes in the number of subscribers and plenty of innovation in content and delivery. Entire areas of the country that were previously out of the satellite TV revolution will now have an opportunity to come into the mainstream. An entire previously untapped sector of the population will open up to advertisers. Advertisers will now have access to as well as people will have more choice and control over what they want to watch. There are exciting times ahead and the impact will be far reaching."
Contact, Bryan Nazareth. Zee Telefilms, e-mail, nazarethb@zeenet work.com