Direct-to-home television in India

Direct-to-Home (DTH) television is a method of receiving satellite television by means of signals transmitted from direct-broadcast satellites. The Government of India permitted the reception and distribution of satellite television signals in November 2000. The first DTH service in the country was launched by Dish TV on 2 October 2003. DD Free Dish, the first free DTH service in India, was launched by public broadcaster Prasar Bharati in December 2004.

India is the largest DTH market in the world by number of subscribers. As on 31 December 2017, there were 67.56 million active pay DTH subscribers in the country. These figures do not include subscribers of free DTH services. The market is serviced by 4 pay DTH providers and one free DTH provider.

DTH services were first proposed in India in 1996. The proposal was not approved to due to concerns over national security and negative cultural influence. In 1997, the Government of India banned DTH services when Rupert Murdoch-owned Indian Sky Broadcasting (ISkyB) was about to launch its DTH services in the country. After deliberations among groups of ministers, DTH services were permitted by the NDA government in November 2000. The ministers made four key recommendations to govern DTH services: no single entity, either private or state-owned, should be permitted a monopoly in DTH services; the vertical integration of DTH and cable television services should be monitored in order to prevent the formation of a monopoly in television distribution; the vertical integration of DTH operators and television channels should be avoided in order to ensure fair competition among TV channels.

The new policy announced in November 2000 required all DTH operators to set up earth stations in India within 12 months of receiving a license. DTH licenses were priced at $2.14 million with a validity of 10 years. The FDI limit in the DTH sector was capped at 49%, and the company operating the services was required to be headed by an Indian citizen.

The first DTH service was launched in India on 2 October 2003 by Dish TV owned by Zee. The company decided not to compete against entrenched cable operators in metros and urban areas, and instead focused on providing services to rural areas and regions not serviced by cable television. Dish TV acquired 350,000 subscribers within 2 years of the launch. Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati launched DD Direct Plus (now DD Free Dish) in December 2004. The service is free and offers only free-to-air channels. Tata Sky was incorporated in 2004 as joint venture between the Tata Group and Star India's Parent Company. Tata Sky launched DTH services in August 2006. Unlike Dish TV, Tata Sky focused on metros and large cities hoping to attract customers away from cable by offering better picture and audio quality and wider selection of channels. Following legal proceedings between STAR and Zee, in 2007, the two companies called a truce and began offering their channels on each other's services. This decision and Dish TV's acquisition of more transponders enabled them to offer 150 channels on their service, more than any other DTH service in India at the time.

Sun Direct and Airtel digital TV launched services in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Reliance Big TV (now Independent TV) was launched in August 2008. The service acquired 1 million subscribers within 90 days of launch, the fastest ramp-up ever achieved by any DTH operator in the world. Videocon d2h launched its services in June 2009.

The total number of DTH subscribers in India rose from 1.5 million in 2005 to 23 million in 2010. Sun Direct became the first DTH provider to offer high-definition (HD) channels in early 2010. Tata Sky began offering HD channels later that year. Other DTH providers subsequently began carrying HD channels.



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