Big TV looking for foreign cash?

Rose Major

A report out of India claims that the Reliance Group’s plans to sell “up to 49%” of Reliance Big TV, its DTH platform operator, to foreign interests.

Among the potential buyers cited by The Business Standard are private equity firms Carlyle Group, KKR and Sequoia Capital. But the report also claims Liberty-backed US DTH operator DirecTV is in talks with Reliance over a deal. That would give John Malone an interest in one of the world’s fastest-growing TV markets.

Indian DTH operators are allowed up to 49% in foreign hands, but only 20% of that is allowed to be held directly by foreign companies. The company declined to comment on the report.

Big TV has around 1.8 million subscribers but is still lagging its more established counterparts Dish TV (5 million), Tata Sky (around 4 million) and Sun Direct (2.3 million). Only Airtel Digital TV is behind with under a million, around 300,000. With the market getting even more competitive when Videcon launches its D2H DTH platform on May 1, any investment cash is sure to be welcomed by Big TV.

Videocon’s D2H service will take an initial Rs10 billion investment and is targeting 1.5 million subscribers in its first year of operation. The platform’s differentiating factor will be the integrated digital TV on offer, meaning potential subscribers will not need a separate set-top box (although must still but a new TV).