Noida-based Dish TV no longer looks like Dish TV.

Dish TV was India’s first-ever private direct-to-home (DTH) operator, launching in 2003—almost seven years after the first DTH proposal was floated (and turned down). The idea then was simple: offer better quality, better pricing and better television services to subscribers via satellite, bypassing local cable operators altogether. And the company did it well—it had more than 23 million subscribers, Rs 1,594 crore ($226 million) in revenue and Rs 19.7 crore ($2.7 million) in profit in the quarter ended September 2018.

But things are changing. It’s now about more than just satellite for Dish TV. Here is the company’s plan for the next three months: a new video streaming service with some live TV channels, catch-up television, and original programming; a smart stick that converts your regular set-top-box into a smart one so you can access online content in addition to the satellite TV; an Android set-top box that allows you to switch between online and offline content without the aforementioned device; and a mechanism to offer broadband along with the satellite and online content access. In short, a whole lot.

Almost all leading DTH companies are going down a similar route. What has been a global technological phenomenon for at least the last five years, is finally here in India—convergence, increasingly blurring the lines between telecommunications and media. And DTH providers want to be at the forefront of this to remain relevant.


Number of pay DTH providers in India—Dish TV, Tata Sky, Airtel, Reliance, and Sun Direct.

It makes sense for DTH companies; the pressure has been high with urban consumers increasingly switching to video streaming platforms. Capex is high, average revenues per user (ARPUs) flat, and balance sheets debt-laden. So much so, that the last 24 months have seen the merger of two big players—Dish TV and Videocon d2h—to form the largest DTH company in India, a partial stake stale by Airtel Digital TV, and Reliance Communications offloading its DTH arm. “DTH will have to up their game. The companies can’t wait for other technologies to come and conquer while they turn archaic. It is a survival game,” says a Mumbai-based media executive, asking not to be named.  

It may not be easy, though. With Reliance Jio entering the TV channel distribution space with its high-speed wired broadband proposition Jio Gigafiber, competition is heating up. Earlier in October, Reliance Industries acquired a majority stake in two cable broadband companies—Den Networks and Hathway—to kickstart the Gigafiber story. Going by Jio’s history in telecom, the current pricing propositions will be overhauled.

In a soup

DTH has been plagued with problems for as long as it has survived, the biggest one being regulatory challenges.


Harveen Ahluwalia

In her last assignment, Harveen was at Mint, the business daily published by HT Media. At Mint, where she spent about two years, she wrote stories on retail, food and the media business. Harveen is a B.Com (H) graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. She has a diploma in journalism from the Times School of Journalism. Like many folks at The Ken, Harveen talks and tweets a lot. When she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to sketch and doodle. She can be reached at harveen at the-ken dot com.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.