Sun Direct, the DTH arm of Sun TV Network, could soon emerge as the No. 1 provider of HD TV channels in India, according to a distributor privy to the company’s plans.
The DTH operator has recently acquired several transponders on a new satellite owned by the ISRO, the Indian space agency, next to its primary satellite Measat 3.
India launched GSAT-15 with 24 Ku band transponders in late 2015. Each transponder can be used to beam 8-10 HD channels, but many DTH operators cram in as many as 16 HD channels on a single transponder to save costs.
The new satellite is located at 93.5 degrees east longitude, next to Measat’s 91.5 degree location. It is also close to Dish TV’s NSS-6 satellite, and it is possible that Dish TV too could lease capacity in the new satellite.
FROM ZERO TO HERO
Before the launch of the satellite, Sun Direct was the in worst position of all DTH players in India from a spectrum availability perspective. The company had initially contracted for five transponders on INSAT 4B, also owned by ISRO and also located at 93.5 degrees.
However, a fire onboard the satellite in 2010 forced Sun Direct to shift its channels on to Measat, and go in for a costly realignment of customer’s receiving equipment across the country. It continued to own one transponder on INSAT 4B, which was soon used to beam its limited number of HD channels, including Discovery, National Geographic and so on.
Since then, the company has had to more or less watch on the sidelines as players like Dish TV, Tata Sky, Airtel Digital and Videocon D2h attracted high-end customers by offering at first a few, and then dozens of HD television channels. Limited by its single transponder, Sun Direct beamed only around 10 channels, while the No. 1 in the market, Tata Sky, beamed 76.
However, with the new satellite, the situation has changed to advantage Sun TV.
The provider, which has most of its subscribers in South India, started adding new channels towards the middle of January. By early February, the total number of HD channels had risen to 40 and two weeks later, it has now reached 49. The additions include Sony Rox, a bollywood music channel, & Pictures HD and Life OK HD.
More channels are on their way, company sources said, though they did not give a specific number. Part of the reason for the slow roll-out could be the paucity of HD channels in the country. Practically all HD channels are available on Tata Sky. However, HD versions of existing channels are being launched at the rate of about half-a-dozen per quarter.
Till the roll-out is completed, HD subscribers will get these newly added channels free of charge, said the official.
The chart at the top shows a list of some the HD channels beamed by all DTH operators in India.