Airtel set to enter direct-to-home television sector (Lead)

October 7th, 2008 - 5:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Kareena KapoorNew Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) Telecom operator Airtel Tuesday announced it would launch a direct-to-home (DTH) satellite television service from Oct 9.The service will be available in 62 cities from Thursday, but will eventually spread to 252 countries.

“This is a right time for Airtel to enter the market. We are very clear at Airtel that we will take leadership of this sector as soon as possible,” Airtel chief executive officer and joint managing director Manoj Kohli said at a press conference here.

Kohli said Airtel was targeting 225 million households in India, out of which only about 70-80 million have cable connection so far.

Further, DTH services have only penetrated three percent of the market, with just seven million customers. “We believe the last two years had been the education phase and now the customer knows DTH is superior to cable,” he said.

Airtel has divided the country into two zones, with three packages each for the south and the rest of India. The packages start from Rs.2,499 for a six-month subscription, while the price band for the channels range from Rs.99 to Rs.424.

The company will be using its existing distribution networks of about 900,000 retail points.

According to Kohli, the company’s DTH services will have universal remote for both set top box (STB) that receives signal from the antenna, and the television set, besides other features such as high STB memory, exclusive interactive applications and a low battery indicator.

Airtel will also offer interactive services like shopping, travel booking, movie ticket booking and customised options for tracking stocks.

Besides, customers will have access to a round-the-clock call centre, with support in eight languages.

Kohli declined to spell out the investment in this sector, but said it was part of the company’s capital expenditure of $2.5 billion for this year.

While teaser adverts have already started appearing on television, the full-fledged advertisement campaign will begin shortly. The television ad spots feature nine celebrities from the entertainment and sports world, including actors Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and music composer A.R. Rehman.

The established players in the DTH market are Tata-Sky, Dish and Sun Direct in the south. Recently, Anil Ambani’s Big TV has also entered the market.

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