Reliance Digital TV, the DTH service that was recently sold by Anil Ambani Group to investors led by Pantel’s Vijender Singh, has taken a leaf out of Reliance Jio’s Jiophone scheme to come back into the market.
The company is offering a ‘free DTH connection for 1 year’ in return for a refundable deposit of Rs 1,999. The ‘free service’ includes all 285 standard definition channels and 12 HD channels available on the platform.
However, there are two key differences between the Jiophone scheme and the Reliance Digital TV free offer.
First, Jiophone does not come with any free usage period, while the Digital TV connection comes with 1 year of free service for all channels including HD.
Second, Jiophone has promised to return ‘money’ to the customer when he or she returns the phone after using it for three years. In case of Digital TV, the refund will not be in the form of money, but in the form of account balance that can be used to make further payments for the DTH service.
Also, unlike the Jiophone, there is no need to return the set-top-box to get the refund.
To remain eligible for the cashback, a user must recharge with at least 300 rupees per month for a period of two years after the initial one-year free period gets over.
If the user does not make any recharges after the initial one-year period, Reliance Digital TV will turn off all the pay-channels, but will not deactivate the box. As a result, the user will continue to be able to watch free-to-air channels, the company said.
This is different from current industry practice, where DTH operators deactivate the boxes of users who do not pay the monthly subscription charge. As a result, they are not able to watch free channels, such as Doordarshan and Star Sports First.
The customer does not have to pay the entire Rs 1,999 at the time of placing the order on the company’s website, but only Rs 499. The remaining Rs 1,500 has to be paid at the time of installation. Finally, the customer also has to pay Rs 250 as labor charges for installation, which are not refundable.
The move is an aggressive play by Vijender Singh’s company to get its market share back.
Digital TV, which at one time used to be a credible competitor to the likes of Sun Direct and Tata Sky, is estimated to have seen its market share dip to about 2% over the last few years due to chronic under-investment as part of the Anil Ambani group.
Offering ‘free connections for a year’ could help the company gain some of that market share back.
HEVC HD UPGRADE
Separately, the Reliance Digital TV is also working on increasing the number channels on its platform, including the HD offerings.
At present, the company has only 12 HD channels and 285 standard definition channels on its platform. The HD channels include four Star Sports channels, one English movie channel, three Hindi entertainment channels and two Hindi movie channels.
Reliance Digital TV is planning to increase the number of channels over the next one year by deploying the HEVC compression technology.
HEVC, also known as H.265, helps almost double the carrying capacity of satellite spectrum by compressing the signal and is currently used only by Sun Direct.
With the help of HEVC, Reliance Digital TV would be able to increase its channel output to about 75 HD channels and 350 standard definition channels without adding satellite transponders.
The company has promised that all new set-top-boxes that will be sold under the ‘free scheme’ will have support for HEVC technology.
The operator is learnt to have tied up with a foreign supplier for the boxes.
However, given that it does not know how many such boxes will be needed, it is reported not to have placed a large order for the boxes. Instead, it plans to keep ordering the boxes based on the level of interest generated by its ‘free scheme’.
As such, anyone opting for the free scheme will face a delay in getting the new box installed at their homes. Nevertheless, the company is promising that the whole set-up will be installed at the user’s premises within 35 to 40 days of placing the order online.