DTH is sexy again

27 Jun 2011

DTH is finally hitting its stride in the pay-TV sector, thanks to growth in both demand for video services and the potential subscriber base in major developing markets like India.

A new report from Digital TV Research released Monday says that DTH revenues will overtake cable TV revenues globally this year, and will grow from $71 billion in 2010 to $86 billion in five years – which will also account for almost half of the world’s pay-TV revenues by that time, says report author Simon Murray.

In Asia, DTH will be a slightly more modest $10.3 billion market in 2016, a third of which will be generated just by India, which currently has six DTH platforms competing for market share. But DTH revenues will not only keep growing, but will also remain the second-highest revenue-generating pay-TV platform in the region for the next five years, behind cable TV but well ahead of IPTV, Murray says.

Romain Bausch, CEO of satellite infrastructure player SES – which provides DTH platforms for service providers in India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong – credits DTH’s growth in part to the simple fact that more people can afford it.

“We now have stronger demand in Asia, which is driven by the increase in income per capita, and by the demographics, and the fact that in some countries the middle class is developing nicely,” he told telecomasia.net. “India has gone beyond 32 million DTH subscribers, which makes it the largest DTH market in the world, and it is growing at one million subscribers a month.”

Bausch adds that satellite’s capacity for HD video is also a driver, although that’s more the case in Europe than in markets like India because the European market is seeing higher sales of HD-ready flat-panel TV sets.

“In India, just 30% of TV sales are flat-panel TVs, and they’re not all HD-ready, so it will take awhile before you have the same phenomenon as you do in Europe,” he said.

Like other satellite-based services, DTH will always have to contend with terrestrial alternatives that extend into the currently underserved areas that comprise satellite’s sweet spot. But in that regard DTH is a surer bet for satellite players than broadband internet, says Asia Broadcast Satellite CEO Thomas Choi.

“Satellite companies shouldn’t be investing in technology that can be easily substituted,” Choi said during a leadership panel at last week’s CASBAA Satellite Industry Forum in Singapore. “DTH is one of them. It's a simple $5 dish and a $20 set-top box and you can get 1,000 channels. No one else can do that.”

Choi said that while satellite broadband is always an option for delivering high-speed internet connectivity outside of urban areas, “when an operator decides to put in a microwave link and Wimax, say, those customers can easily be churned out if the price is cheaper.”

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