DTH operator Independent TV’s FY18 net loss swells to Rs 119.3 cr

MUMBAI: Bleeding direct to home (DTH) operator Independent TV, which was formerly known as Reliance Big TV, has seen its net loss swell more than nine times to Rs 119.3 crore in the fiscal ended 31 March 2018 compared to a net loss of Rs 12.78 crore in the previous fiscal.

The company’s turnover has plummeted 45.4% to Rs 210 crore compared to Rs 385.1 crore in the previous fiscal.

Independent TV had negative reserve and surplus of Rs 712.8 crore compared to Rs 593.7 crore. The company’s assets for the fiscal were valued at Rs 13,196 crore as against Rs 425.8 crore. Liabilities stood at Rs 13,898.8 crore compared to Rs 1009.5 crore.

In its annual report, Reliance Communications (RCom) said that the company has entered into a definitive binding agreement with Pantel Technologies and Veecon Media and Television for sale of Independent TV.

It further stated that the said assets along with liabilities, revenue and expenses have been classified as assets held for sale and disclosed separately as discontinued operations.

RCom, which was reeling under a debt of Rs 45,000 crore, had parted with DTH asset to reduce its debt.

Independent TV has been facing an existential crisis due to mounting dues. To make matters worse, the DTH company has been taken to court by broadcasters and Antrix Corporation over unpaid dues.

Many pay-TV broadcasters have switched off signals to the DTH company due to its inability to pay outstanding dues. In fact, Sun TV Network had filed an insolvency petition against the company in National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

The DTH operator has been facing an exodus of subscribers to other DTH platforms in the absence of many pay channels. In fact, Independent TV had just a 1% share of the active pay DTH subscribers of 67.53 million.

The biggest setback faced by the company came when Antrix had discontinued transponder service. The service was resumed after the DTH operator had paid a part of the dues as part of the interim arrangement put in place by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

In July, the TDSAT had directed Antrix to provide continuity of transponder service to the DTH operator for a period of three months at a time. It had further stated that the service is subject to DTH operator providing the required advance payment and bank guarantee.

Prior to the MoU with Veecon, RCom had issued a notice stating that the DTH business is being shut down from 18 November due to the expiry of licence.

After the MoU, Pantel and Veecon initiated efforts to renew the existing DTH licence submitting the required Bank Guarantees to the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB).

In order to acquire new customers, the DTH operator has launched a scheme wherein customers who buy a high definition (HD) HEVC set top box (STB) priced Rs 1999 will get pay channels free of cost for a period of one year. The DTH operator has said that it will also offer 500 free to air (FTA) channels free for five years.

However, the customers will need to pay Rs 300 per month from second year onwards for the pay channels. If the customers subscribe to the pay channels for the next two years they will get back Rs 1999 as a loyalty in the form of recharge.