India may prove too huge a stumbling block for DTH TV

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BOMBAY -- Direct-to-home TV may find innumerable obstacles in entering a market like India where the efforts of pay channels are repeatedly thwarted by disorganised cable operators and free-to-air-loving Indians, a new study warns.

The market review by Hong Kong-based AIM Asia and New Delhi-based First Capital India claims that efficient subscription management, quality programming to convince viewers to pay extra and up-to-date technology capable of delivering marketable signals to homes are prerequisites for DTH's success in India.

India's highly fragmented cable industry consists of 20,000 operators catering to a cabled population of 12 million homes nationwide. Most of these operators are reluctant to upgrade their equipment to increase channel capacity or viewing quality and use bullying methods to extract subscription dues from consumers.

The ferocity of the monsoons also may cause a "rain fade", with disruption of satellite signals, the study says. The equipment currently used in India is inadequate to cope with the problems that could be encountered by DTH services.

The increasing crowding of the Asian skies, with as many as 50 satellites in the air by the end of 1996, will lead to more and more difficulties with interference, the study adds.

But these hurdles haven't stopped many networks, telecoms marketers and cable systems from planning DTH ventures for India. Rupert Murdoch's Hong Kong-based Star TV Network, Bombay-based Subhash Chandra (whose Hindustani-language satellite broadcaster Zee Network is 50.1%-owned by Murdoch), U.S. defense and communications giant Loral and Thailand's Shinawatra have firm plans.

Copyright September 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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