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Anil Ambani’s RCom to shut down DTH business on 18 Nov

MUMBAI: Anil Ambani-led telecom operator Reliance Communications is shutting down its direct to home (DTH) business Reliance Digital TV with effect from 18 November due to the expiry of its DTH licence.

The decision to shut down the DTH business comes following failed attempts to hive-off and sell it to a potential buyer. The telecom major had also toyed with the idea of merging the DTH business with Sun Group’s Sun Direct however that move also came a cropper.

In July, the debt-laden company had included the sale of its DTH business as part of its long-term plan to reduce debt. Reeling under Rs 45,000 crore debt, RCom had planned to cut down its debt by 60% by September and 80% by December.

“Reliance Digital TV informs its customers that due to the expiry of our licence we will be shutting down our DTH services across India wef 18 November. Customers are advised to make alternative arrangements to keep watching their favourite TV channels. We regret the inconvenience caused,” Reliance Big TV said in its notice.

Reliance Digital TV is the smallest among the six pay DTH platforms in the country with a measly 2% of 65.31 million active pay DTH subscribers, as on 30 June. Dish TV is the biggest DTH operator with 24% share followed by Tata Sky (23%), Airtel Digital TV (21%), Videocon d2h (20%).

Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), had threatened to suspend the availability of transponders to Reliance Digital TV due to non-payment of dues. Following this, the DTH operator moved Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) seeking relief.

The tribunal directed Antrix not to suspend satellite transponders to DTH operator provided the latter makes a payment of Rs 7.5 crore in two installments.

Reliance Digital TV was directed to pay, on account, an amount of Rs 7.5 crore of which Rs 5 crore was to be paid preferably by 13 October but certainly on 16 October and the remaining Rs 2.5 crore by the end of the week.

Before being pulled up by Antrix, the DTH operator had run into trouble with TV broadcasters over non-payment of dues.

The DTH industry in India is going through a phase of consolidation with Dish TV and Videocon d2h merging to create India’s biggest TV distribution platform with 44% share of active pay DTH subscribers, as per TRAI data for the quarter ending 30 June.

Tata Group and 21st Century Fox promoted Tata Sky is also looking to merge with Bharti Airtel’s DTH platform Airtel Digital TV. Tata Group had recently sold its consumer telecom business to Airtel. The Tata Sky-Airtel Digital TV combine will rival Dish TV-Videocon d2h combo with an identical 44% share of the market.