Sunil Thapliyal , Founder , Benchmark AV Media

Surveys have predicted that the total number of subscribers who include subscribers of analog cable TV, digital cable TV, and direct-to-home services will rise to 183 million by 2025 from 170 million in 2016.

As per TAM figures of 2015, India had over 167 million households (out of 234 million) with television sets, of which over 161 million have access to cable TV or satellite TV, including 84 million households which are DTH subscribers.

There are more than 850+ channels of which 190+ are pay channels. Digital TV households have grown by 32 percent in 3 years since 2013 in migration from terrestrial and analog broadcasts. With the compulsory digitization of set-top boxes getting implemented at a fast pace since 2012, the Turf War between DTH service providers and cable operators has entered an interesting phase.

Free Dish/DD has dominated this segment but still the all-India reach is around 25 percent only. Although quoted figures are 33 percent but it was found out that these figures also contained inactive set-top boxes. That Leaves a huge 75 percent market share still serviced by the regional cable TV operators.

Future projections of the surveys have predicted that the total number of subscribers who include subscribers of analog cable TV, digital cable TV, and direct-to-home services will rise to
183 million by 2025 from 170 million in 2016. By 2025, 70 percent of India's pay-TV base is estimated to be digitized, growing from 93 million subscribers to 129 million. Digital TV households have grown by 32 percent since 2013 due to migration from terrestrial and analog broadcasts. TV-owning households have been growing at between 8 and 10 percent. Digital TV penetration is at 64 percent as of September 2014.

Therefore, the significance of cable operators will remain at least for coming 3–5 years, because of their economical subscription offers and the strong local networks as compared with the DTH operators, especially in the smaller towns and semirural markets, and states like UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, North-East etc. In addition, the domination of many cable TV giants like DEN, Hathway, SITI etc. will not be easy to overcome in the specific regional markets.

But in the long run, cable operators will not be able to match the 24-hours online services provided by DTH operators, their call centres, facilities of online booking/payment or for changing of schemes/plans, additional facilities like video recording or watching any previous programs through internet, and the fact that all DTH channels can be easily linked with smart phones.

But again as on date, cable remains the major source of BARC in markets like UP, Bihar, Gujarat, or even Delhi NCR etc. A place like Ghaziabad has more than 80 percent cable operators.

Most of us have graduated from the huge print media in India to TV media and are now progressing toward digital platforms of the vast global social media. There is
a difference in these regarding the
reach to attract advertising/marketing revenues.

In the print media it was very easy to check the area wise print-order at the printing machines and also through readership surveys. In TV it is the number of connections and BARC numbers and in the digital media it is the number of hits by subscribers that determine area wise demand.

But the electronic media is yet to establish the credibility of the print media, as the claimed number of set-top-boxes does not mean that all those numbers are active subscribers. We have seen DTH/cable operators claiming that their quoted figures of boxes are 100 percent active subscribers, which is not at all true. In case of the digital media a global survey found that 50 percent of subscriber hits are false.

We hope with the gradual digitization of the set-top boxes, the TV industry will slowly establish its credibility with authentic figures coming out, in the near future.