India: Boom time for STB shipments

Last year some 7.2m DTH set-top boxes were shipped to India, making the country one of the world’s fastest-growing DTH markets. The total represented a three-fold increase over 2007 shipments. And with a half-dozen major players hard at work promoting DTH, and another launching now, the public is getting the DTH message.

New entrants such as Sun Direct, telco Reliance’s Big TV, rival telco Bharti’s AirTel TV as well as Zee’s Dish TV and Tata Sky plus new boy Videocon’s D2H+ service are all helping educate the market, and sell subs.

India’s ‘must carry’ regulations means that almost all channels are carried by every platform, so the only option for the pay-TV broadcasters is to compete on price, and services in their boxes which are heavily subsidised. A new report from Screen Digest says 88% of all boxes shipped last year were low-cost units with the most basic functionality, other than Big TV which has launched a sophisticated receiver which is capable of HDTV and has a USB connector.

Screen Digest lists the major box shippers as Kaon Media, Coship, Homecast and Hyundai. “The only major suppliers of Western markets shipping to India are Thomson and Humax in deals with TataSky,” says Screen Digest. “Open TV and NDS dominate the middleware market, with Conax, Irdeto, Nagravision and NDS supplying CA.”

Conax is the acknowledged market leader thanks to its first-mover advantage with Zee’s Dish TV. Indeed, the company said in a release to coincide with this week’s Convergence India show that its Indian market grew 68% last year (including deals with cable operators such as Wire & Wireless India, and Digicable). But Screen Digest says that NDS is likely to catch Conax thanks to its deals with TataSky and AirTel TV grow their subs.

This year the momentum will soften, says the report, with 5.3m boxes shipping.