Reliance Digital TV starts a price war, just like the one in Indian telecom

Disruption ahead.
Disruption ahead.
Image: Reuters/Jitendra Prakash
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Telecom operators bled out—Aircel even went bankrupt—after Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries entered the sector with Jio in September 2016. Now, a similar threat looms in the direct-to-home (DTH) television segment as, once again, Reliance Digital TV sparks a potential price war.

On Feb. 28, Reliance Digital TV announced its offer of up to 500 channels “free of cost effectively.” Customers will have to pay Rs1,999 ($30) upfront and will get their money back after using the service for two years.

Reliance Digital TV is among the smaller players in India’s direct-to-home TV market. Launched by Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications in 2008 and bought over by Veecon Media and Television in November 2017, it has just a 2% share of the 65.31 million DTH TV subscribers across the country.

As part of the limited-time offer, which begins today (March 01), subscribers who pre-book a set-top-box and the outdoor satellite dish and pay Rs1,999 will have access to around 500 free-to-air channels for five years, and access to paid HD channels for a year, a company statement said. It currently offers around 250 channels to its subscribers.

The second year onwards, subscribers will have to pay Rs300 a month to recharge their HD channels for two years, after which the entire amount will be credited back to the subscribers in the form of a subscription recharge.

It is likely that others like Airtel DTH, Dish TV, Sun Direct, Videocon DTH, and Tata Sky may make counter-offers to retain customers.

Meanwhile, growth in the segment had flat-lined in 2017, while the average revenue per user continues to decline. Now a price war seems imminent, much to consumers’ delight.