Sucheta Dalal :Digital TV growth in India driven by rural market
Sucheta Dalal

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Digital TV growth in India driven by rural market  

May 10, 2010

Pay-Direct-to-Home (DTH) is penetrating rural India in greater measure as the share of pay-DTH has almost doubled in rural India, as compared to 2008. As per a study known as ‘TAM Annual Universe Update –2010’, done by Television Audience Measurement Group, TAM, along with its parent companies—AC Nielsen and Kantar Media Research/IMRB, the estimated total number of TV households in India is about 135 million, out of which 80% of TV households in India now have a cable & satellite (C&S) connection and among these one in every five households have a digital connection.


Digital connection involves reception of TV signals through a set-top-box, (STB), either through DTH or through cable. The DTH service is growing fastest and has been higher across platforms, whether it is metros or even smaller towns.


Both urban and rural digital growth is mainly coming from pay-DTH; the growth rate of the same is specifically higher in rural areas. The share of pay-DTH among all DTH households has been 86% for urban compared to 64% for rural areas. But if we compare the statistics in 2008, the growth in the digital segment in the rural sector was 34%, in 2009 it was 49% and in 2010 it was 64%. What prevails over everything else is that DTH has been observed as the growth provider for digital TV in both strata, whereas cable STB penetration remains stable across urban and rural India.


TAM’s spokesperson told Moneylife that the agency, along with its parent companies, has been active on conducting this study to give a better perspective on the industry. “This is TAM’s regular annual study and we have been doing this for the past four years. Our definition of ‘digital’ is that any home which has an STB has DTH services. Through this study we try to give the industry an understanding of the current television landscape. Broadcast is going digital in India and what we are trying to do is get a clue from where exactly is the growth coming, whether it is the rural or the urban market. The rural market has been responding fantastically compared to the urban one,” said the TAM spokesperson.


According to the statistics provided by the report, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi have performed better with a higher growth rate than the all-India figures for TV and C&S (cable and satellite).


According to the demographic composition studied by TAM on the digital platform, non-metros have seen a significant digital growth, considering that all-India digital growth has been around 11%. TV, C&S and digital segments grew by 9%, 11% and 54% respectively per year, as per the TAM report, where growth has been primarily driven by non-metro markets. TAM’s spokesperson added, “What the Indian landscape is seeing is the co-existence of C&S and digital on the same platform, which is marvellous.” According to industry sources, the DTH story has been fairly optimistic, as the industry added about 12 million customers in the first five years but in the last one year the industry has added 10 million more customers.


Therefore, today the total DTH market is around 22 million. Airtel, which has around 2.5 million customers for its DTH service, said that rural India is an important market, “It (the rural market) has played a substantial role in our growth in DTH services in the last one year or so. Increasingly, we find that over 60% of our customers come from outside the top 300 towns in India.”

DTH has become popular as it always gives the consumer a variety to choose from and pick accordingly. Considering that there are almost 10-12 hours of power cuts in rural areas, it makes it easier for the population to access their favourite programmes or daily soaps. All they need is a small generator and their digital TV will work. TAM’s spokesperson also suggested, “There is always an advantage of getting to know the rule of demand and supply. Consumers will always have the power to demand for TV channels as per their convenience compared to cable services, which offer only selected channels.”

Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky, told Moneylife, “Yes, we see huge potential in the rural market. Around 50% of our volumes come from outside the top 50 towns in the country. We also have plans to launch products that will cater to only rural areas.”—
Moneylife Digital Team

-- Sucheta Dalal