Airtel Digital TV sets its eyes on acquiring cable, terrestrial TV customers
MUMBAI: Bharti Airtel’s direct to home (DTH) arm Airtel Digital TV sees opportunity in adding more pay-TV customers by bringing an estimated 90 million cable and terrestrial customers to the DTH fold.
Airtel Digital had added 1.22 million net subscribers in FY19 to take its total base to 15.39 million. In the exit quarter of FY19, the DTH operator had added 3.91 lakh customers.
During the Q4 earnings conference call, Bharti Airtel MD and CEO India & South Asia Gopal Vittal said that there is a lot headroom for growth in the pay-TV.
“The DTH industry or the DTH market for us is a large market because there are still probably about 90 million odd customers who are sitting with cable and terrestrial connection, so there is still a big upgradation opportunity from cable to DTH,” Vittal told analysts.
He also said that there has been a migration of cable customers to DTH during the implementation of the new tariff order (NTO). The multi system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) have faced challenges in implementing the NTO.
“In the context of the TRAI order, I would imagine there has been some uncertainty and some challenges of implementation and that may have been one of the reasons why we are seeing a faster acceleration from cable to DTH, so that is one of the reasons why customer additions have been strong,” he stated.
Speaking about the broadband business, Vittal said that the company has 2.2-2.3 million home broadband customers. While admitting that the average revenue per user (ARPU) has flattened out, he stated that wired broadband has stickiness.
“On the fixed line, on the broadband business, we have about 2.2 million or 2.3 million customers. Our ARPUs have kind of stabilized, marginally down, but broadly stabilized. And that is because of the rearchitecturing of the pricing. We think this business is a very different type of business from wireless. This is a street-by-street, home-by-home business. Stickiness tends to be very high. Churn on this business is exceedingly low. And unless you make a mistake, chances are, unlike wireless, where people have dual SIMs and the cost of entry is very low, the stickiness tends to be high,” Vittal noted.
In order to increase stickiness, the company is combining its mobile and DTH services with home broadband. “One of the things that we are looking to do is to further strengthen that stickiness through the launch bringing in other services across our mobile as well as our DTH platforms into the home. We track that very closely and we have a metric that drives that. We are also trying to see what we can do to digitally enable several services to be sold seamlessly to customers. So that is something that we will continue to look at.”
Bharti Airtel CFO India & South Asia Badal Bagri said noted that the home broadband business has witnessed a modest revenue uptick after many quarters.
“Talking briefly about other businesses. After many quarters, the Homes Business has seen some revenue uptick, albeit modest. We continue to be bullish about the segment and are continuously working towards the expansion of our fiber presence and offer a superior proposition to our customers. The customer base stood at 2.27 million as at the end of March 31, 2019,” he stated.
On digital TV services, he stated that this business continues to witness double-digit revenue growth on the back of strong customer relations. “We added approximately 391,000 customers during the quarter and a total base stood at 15.4 million as at the end of March 2019.”
Bagri also pointed out that Airtel is making a dynamic shift in its strategy from simply being a pipe providing connectivity to being an ecosystem of digital services with an aim to win quality customers across verticals and offer them brilliant experience across all touch points.
“This strategy would be enabled through five key pillars, the primary pillar being providing services at scale. We will continue to scale up our digital services, such as Airtel TV, Wynk, Books, Payments, etc., which we offer as part of our flagship Airtel Thanks program. Services at scale will need partnership and this will continue to be core to our differentiated offerings. We aspire to be the best partner in the ecosystem with the ability to quickly and seamlessly integrate offerings on our platform,” he said.