Telecom operator Bharti Airtel has said that it will continue to expand it’s direct to home (DTH) business under Bharti Telemedia. The DTH brand is known as Airtel Digital TV.
A key focus area for the DTH operator will be to expand its high definition (HD) offering. HD is a key revenue stream for TV distribution platforms as the average revenue per user (ARPU) is higher than what they earn from standard definition (SD) service.
While DTH operators in the past have complained about the capacity constraints, Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal has said that the company’s DTH business is not facing any constraint on the capacity front.
For the quarter ended 31 March, the DTH operator was offering a total of 649 channels including 75 HD channels, 5 international channels, and 4 interactive services.
“We will be beefing up HD channels. Airtel Digital TV has around 75 HD channels as of now. There are no capacity constraints really, that limit these,” Vittal said in a conversation with analysts after the Q4 results.
Earlier, the company had said that HD subscribers now comprise more than a third of Airtel Digital TV’s subscriber base.
Bharti Telemedia’s EBITDA for FY18 was up 16% at Rs 1422.6 crore while revenue jumped 10% to Rs 3757 crore. Operating cash flow was up 9% at Rs 394.9 crore. The company closed the fiscal with 14.2 million customers while average revenue per user (ARPU) stood at Rs 228.
The telecom operator is also enhancing it’s over the top (OTT) platform Airtel TV as it looks to battle it out with Reliance Jio’s JioTV on the content front.
Airtel TV, which was revamped recently, offers over 350+ live TV channels and 10,000 + movies and shows. It also has partnerships with Eros Now, SonyLIV and HOOQ, Hotstar and ALTBalaji.
Airtel TV users have spent over two billion minutes watching videos on the app since the beginning of the year, and the app is soon expected to reach 50 million downloads. Airtel TV had recently selected InMobi as display and video monetization platform.
All content on Airtel TV app is free for Airtel Post-paid and Prepaid customers until June 2018. The service has 26-27 million monthly active users.
Queried about the company’s strategy for Airtel TV once the free period ends, Vittal said that the company is still undecided whether to keep the service free or make it pay.
“Once we get that behavior going, charging a price for that content will be easier. How will it be charged is a question that remains to be answered—subscription-based, monthly, half-yearly, annual?” he said.
He further stated that consumption of video in India is undergoing a tectonic shift, becoming more personal in nature, instead of community or group based consumption.
“The Airtel TV app currently acts as a content aggregator and has partnerships with Eros Now, Alt Balaji and Hotstar. The TV app is built on a highly scalable video delivery architecture integrated with our 4G network,” Vittal noted.