Cable TV User Base Erodes During The Pandemic As OTT Shift Accelerates
Cable and direct-to-home television service providers ceded ground to streaming services during the pandemic as Netflix and Amazon Prime to AltBalaji increased reach when hundreds of millions of Indians stayed at home.
Combined user base of large cable TV operators and DTH companies fell by 41 lakh in the year through March 2021, according to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. That’s a drop of 3.4%.
The decline came even as Indians spent more time on entertainment at home during successive lockdowns to contain Covid-19. Internet usage spiked during the period. While work from home and online schooling contributed, consumers are also increasingly watching movies and shows online. And with smartphone penetration increasing and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. and Google’s low-cost smartphone coming out soon, the shift will only accelerate.
Two numbers underscore this change:
The number of wired broadband subscribers additions spiked fivefold year-on-year to 35.8 lakh in the quarter ended March, taking the total to 2.6 crore, according to TRAI data.
The domestic over-the-top platform market, largely comprising video and audio, is expected to grow sevenfold from $2.1 billion (about Rs 15,330 crore) now in the next four years, according to a report by RBSA Advisors.
“Covid-19 has changed the way audience consumes media,” said the report. “OTTs offer a never before consumer experience—choice of content, ease of access, choice of device (handphone, laptop, tablet, or TV screen), and liberal censorship policy.”
The top online entertainment categories are music, video streaming, and gaming.
Meaning, cable TV and DTH operators will continue to face a challenge. The churn was visible in the quarter ended March. While the data comes with a lag, it points to what may be in store.
The active subscriber base of DTH and 13 largest multi-system operators, or large cable service providers that feed content to the smaller ones, shrank by 19.96 lakh over the previous quarter to 11.58 crore as of March.
While largest three multi-system operators Hathway Digital Pvt., Thamizhaga Cable TV Communication Pvt., and VK Digital Network Pvt. gained maximum users, most of their peers saw their user base contract in Q4FY21. The decline was led by Den Networks Ltd. and Siti Networks Ltd.
TRAI provides list of operators with a subscriber base of at least 10 lakh.
Financials of most MSOs and DTH operators remained volatile because of the churn rate during the pandemic. The impact of the second wave of the pandemic that ravaged India’s hinterland was even more severe.
Here’s how they fared in the last two quarters.