Louise Duffy ©RapidTVNews | 22-07-2011

Indian operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications have raised the prices of their set-top boxes for direct-to-home (DTH) TV services to new customers and cut free-view periods.

Bharti Airtel has raised the price of its set-top boxes by INR243 each, while Reliance has increased its prices by INR200, executives at the two companies told Dow Jones Newswires.

The price increases come after Dish TV India, the country's largest DTH operator by users, raised the price of its set-top boxes by up to INR200 earlier this month.

According to Total Telecom, a Bharti executive, who didn't want to be named, said the company has also reduced its free-view period for sports channels to two months from three. Reliance Communications has reduced the free-view period by a month to two months for new subscribers in the country's north, east and west regions, said Sanjay Behl, chief executive of Reliance BIG TV, the DTH and Internet television unit of Reliance Communications.

Bharti had more than 6.0 million users for its digital TV services at the end of March, while Reliance BIG TV had 3.5 million users. Analysts say local DTH operators need to have at least 7.0 million users to turn profitable at the operating level.

For the financial year ended 31 March, Bharti Airtel's digital TV services unit posted an operating loss of INR10.32 billion on revenue of INR10.32 billion.

Reliance BIG TV posted an operating loss of INR949 million on revenue of INR3.64 billion for the January-March quarter.