Sun Direct, the DTH arm of Sun TV, has set the ball rolling on a massive expansion of its offerings that is expected to see 20 new HD and 100 new standard definition channels added to the platform in the next few days.
At present, the service has the least number of channels among paid DTH platforms in India, offering around 200 standard-definition and 60 high-definition channels. In comparision, Airtel Digital has around 500 SD and 71 HD channels.
As a prelude to the massive addition, Sun Direct has started moving all its SD channels on GSAT 15 back to nearby Measat satellites.
Two months ago, the DTH operator was forced to shift around 50 SD channels from Measat to GSAT 15 after the collapse of its signal sharing agreement with Reliance Digital TV. Reliance Digital used to let Sun use some of its channels for its platform as both were being beamed from Measat.
Since then, Sun Direct has been able to acquire about 144 MHz of new spectrum on Measat and has now also won the approval of the Department of Telecom for activating the transponders.
Over the past 24 hours, around two dozen channels on GSAT 15 have been shifted to its new transponders on Measat. The shifting of the channels will make them accessible to Sun Direct’s standard-definition subscribers again.
Sun’s HD subscribers have their antennas aligned to pick up signals from both satellites, while regular subscribers’ antennas are pointed to Measat only. As a result, when the channels were shifted from Measat to GSAT 15, most of the regular customers lost access to them.
Once all the four dozen or so of SD channels are shifted back to Measat, Sun Direct is expected to add 20 HD channels on GSAT 15, taking the total high-definition channels on the service to 80.
UPDATE (2018/02/05): Around 10 new SD channels have been added to the platform, including Rishtey Cineplex, Colors Odiya, Super TV and Nambikkai TV.
This will make it the second biggest provider of HD content in India after Tata Sky.
Even after the 50 channels are moved back to Measat, the company will have enough surplus capacity on Measat to add another 100 SD channels, or if it chooses, around 40 HD channels. It is expected that it will utilize this left-over capacity to add SD channels only.
The company has already tweeted a picture advertising the upcoming channel additions (see above), and has added around a dozen new channels.
Among the new channels are FTV, Start Utsav, MH1, Aastha and Sanskar.
In addition, scores of new ‘blank’ channels have started transmitting and will soon be replaced with proper signals.
At the end of the process, Sun Direct will be able to compete on an even footing with the likes of Airtel Digital, Tata Sky and D2h in the South Indian market.
Sun Direct, once the undisputed king of the South Indian market, has seen a steady erosion in its market share as rivals like Airtel Digital started beaming new South Indian channels that were cropping up every month, while Sun Direct was left dealing with a severe capacity crunch.
Even though spare capacity was available on the nearby GSAT 15, the company could not use it for beaming SD channels as its SD subscribers have their antennas pointed to Measat.