India is a relatively new market for Direct To Home (DTH)/Direct Satellite Broadcasting. Since the first broadcast by Doordarshan in 1959, television broadcast in India has gone a long way. The two major leaps this industry took was in 1991 when deregulation made it possible for foreign players to jump into the Indian market and once again in 2004 when the KU Band direct to home broadcasting was legalised. Between 2004 and 2011, 7 Direct Satellite Service Providers have launched their services in India catering to an estimated 25 million subscribers, making India the second largest market after USA.
In this article we will try and see how the different provider stack up against each other in terms of service quality and initiative and selling point.
1. DD Direct + – Launched in December 2004, it is the only free Direct To Home service in India. Launch by the public television broadcaster of India, Doordarshan, it currently is capable of carrying 59 channels but only carries 58. Notable channels include: 9XM, B4U Music and Russia Today. The service also carries 21 radio channels.
- Its free. You don’t pay a dime for this service.
- They are in the process of increasing the number of channels to about 100
- Very very few channels. many free to air channels are missing as well.
2. TataSky – A joint venture between TATA and British Sky Broadcasting from UK, this service was launched in 2006. In terms of subscribers, it is the second biggest provider in India after Dish TV. It currently carries 185 channels. This includes 7 True HD channels. It launched its HD service on June 14, 2010 and HD DVR service branded Tatasky + HD in early 2011.
- Carries all the major channels available in India and some like Turner Classic Movies which is not available on any other DTH platform.
- Carries the Asli HD channels which include Star Movies HD, Star Plus HD, Star World HD and Star Gold HD
- It also allows a very diverse customization of the packages unlike other operators.
- The Set Top Boxes are from well known manufacturers and of good quality.
- Movies Now HD, ESPN HD, Nat Geo Adventure HD, Nat Geo Wild HD and Travel XP HD is not available on TataSky.
- Lack of Transponder space.
3. Dish TV – It is India’s oldest DTH operator and with over 10 million subscribers, also the largest in terms of subscriber base. They currently provide 247 channels including 3 True HD channels and 27 up-scaled channels. Since its satellite is positioned very near to that of DD Direct +, those channels are available on Dish TV as well. Dish TV also hired some transponders on AsiaSat 5, making it possible for them to add more channels in the future.
- Huge channel offering and one of the most experienced provider in the market.
- Carries many regional channels which other providers do not.
- The Set Top Boxes are mostly sourced from chinese companies.
- Carries 7 HD channels which does not include the Asli HD channels and the ESPNStar HD channels.
4. Reliance Digital TV – This is the 5th DTH service launched in India. Reliance entered the market on 19th August, 2010. This service has seen two brand name change since inception. It was started as Reliance Blue Magic, later it came to be known as Big TV and now it has rebranded to Reliance Digital TV. Reliance launched its service in MPEG 4 in India. This allowed them to use their transponders more efficiently and provide more channels. It currently offers 247 channels.
- Has the highest number of Pay Per View channels.
- Provides STBs from well known manufacturers.
- HD Service has got only 6 channels.
- A big opaque logo appears on every channel.
5. Sun Direct – Launched in 2004, Sun Direct initially was only available in South India. Later on they ventured into the rest of India. Sun Direct carries the highest number of South Indian channels and mostly concentrate on the South Indian market. It is the first DTH provider in India to launch HD services. Its also the first to use MPEG 4 to carry its channels. It currently carries 199 channels including 3 True HD channels
- High number of South Indian channels and so the DTH provider of choice if you are looking for regional content from South India.
- Initial cost is low.
- Has fewer number of channels compared to Dish TV and TataSky.
- Other providers give better value for money if you are not from South India
6. Airtel Digital TV – Launched by the Bharti Group, their mail selling point initially was the use of the most advanced technology for transmission, MPEG 4 DVB-S2, and a superior quality set top box. The lack of availability of KU band transponder has somewhat impeded their plans. The service currently carries 196 channels which includes 1 HD channel.
- Uses MPEG-4 DVB S2 for compression which provides better quality.
- Carries 7 HD channels.
- Lack of transponder space.
- Does not carry ESPNStar HD channels.
7. Videocon d2h – Like Airtel Digital TV, Videocon D2H also uses MPEG-4 DVB S2 for transmission. This is the latest addition to the Indian market. It currently carries 267 channel which includes 4 Regular HD channels and 2 PPV HD channels. One of the major innovation they have done for the Indian market is to launch Satellite TVs which do not require set top boxes.
- Lots of channels, with competitive pricing.
- Has got 12 True HD regular channels, including Travel XP HD, Star Cricket HD and ESPN HD, which is not available on any other platform as of now.
- Has launched some Satellite TVs which do not require the set top boxes.
- A-la-carte channels prices are relatively higher.
I hope this review will be helpful for deciding which one to go for if you already have not. You should be aware of the future channel augmenting capability of a provider. Transponder space is very scarce in India and so not every provider will have the capability to add more channels later.
The number of local channels from your region vary from provider to provider, so if that is your focus, do research all of them to see what each has to offer.
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