Launching a DTH Platform
Direct-to-home (DTH), the traditional way most viewers have enjoyed video content, is here to stay. DTH provides exceptional video quality, being fully digital, and is immediately available to the consumer, regardless of location. It provides a very wide geographical reach, and is considered most cost-efficient solution for delivering linear TV channels to millions of users simultaneously .
In spite of the rise of over-the-top (OTT) and video-on-demand (VOD) platforms, much of Asia-Pacific still consumes video via DTH, with Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka representing lucrative growing markets . In India alone, which has consistently remained the largest DTH market in Asia, there were 64.3 million pay-DTH subscribers in 2017 . Proof of DTH’s potential lies not in the numbers alone, but also in that satellite operators like SES are launching more High Throughput Satellites (HTS) in the region, such as SES-12, to offer deeper regional penetration and better-quality video .
With such growth, the demand for DTH remains unfulfilled, leaving room for new DTH operators to enter the market. For aspiring video distributors and broadcasters, DTH can prove an effective way to tap into new markets, especially in regions that remain unconnected via cable or fibre. To do this requires turning the seemingly unsurmountable challenges of DTH into opportunities, based on a sound, research-backed understanding of target markets and the business climate.
Crafting a Good Content Strategy
For DTH providers, the key to attracting and retaining a viewer base is to broadcast unique, relevant content. In Asia-Pacific, audiences seek niche local and regional content in local languages, along with popular international TV. India saw 282 free-to-air (FTA) and 240 pay-TV channels in 2017, broadcasting in at least 13 languages . Catering to such a growing appetite will enable a new DTH provider to stay ahead of global competition from well-established international players, who typically broadcast global content and are less familiar with local markets compared to regional players.
Finding the Right Business Model
One of the fundamental decisions a DTH provider has to make is to decide on a profitable business model. Currently, there are three prevalent models most providers choose from: pay-TV, free-to-air (FTA), and free-to-view (FTV).
Pay-TV is popular with DTH providers because the other two models depend very heavily on advertising revenues to sustain the business, which might be unfeasible, especially for a new operator without a significant viewer base to entice advertisers . Pay-TV will also allow a broadcaster to ensure higher-quality transmission, such as 4K, which is the reason DTH remains a strong contender in content delivery methods in spite of the competing mechanisms such as cable, internet protocol TV (IPTV), and OTT.
However, implementing a pay-TV model has its challenges, the biggest being the ability to entice viewers to subscribe to begin with. Here, a good content strategy is imperative, along with a good marketing strategy that understands the local environment and the purchasing power of the target market. A DTH provider will also need to be creative in coming up with enticing packages and tailored solutions, ensuring that every demographic is catered for.
Understanding the Technical Requirements
One succeeding factor in launching a DTH platform is in understanding the technical requirements needed for the deployment process to begin.
To begin with, a DTH provider will have to choose the appropriate consumer equipment, such as the set-top box (STB) and satellite dish antenna. Choosing the right consumer equipment from the start based on your long-term plans is essential for delivering the ideal viewing experience. Subsequently, the required equipment will vary depending on the chosen business model, features to be included, and the quality of the content. Good quality equipment will reassure consumers on the quality and reliability of the service. At the same time, it needs to be acquired at an affordable price point.
On-the-ground efforts by technicians and installers are an essential pillar of long-term success, as customer support needs to be sustained and responsive, especially when unexpected issues crop up. Following installation and operational processes in a diligent manner leads to a high level of customer satisfaction, and contributes to the positive perception of your brand. High-quality product delivery and complaint redressal system can not only help acquire new customers, but also retain current ones, minimising churn.
It must also be easy for technical support and customer service teams to understand and address consumer issues, and to be fixed quickly in case of emergencies.
Besides having enough satellites to provide coverage across a target region, the satellite operator should ideally be able to provide very high-quality transmissions in at least 4K. Today, the standard of video quality is being raised further, with 8K soon to be the norm. In May 2019, a partnership between Samsung, Spin Digital and SES demonstrated the transmission of 8K signal directly to a flat screen TV with a built-in satellite receiver .
A partnership with a reliable satellite operator such as SES also needs to be developed for DTH to even be possible.
A DTH provider should aim to retain and grow its consumer base by striving to stay competitive. Part of this is to offer new and relevant content, coupled with a good marketing and branding strategy that makes the service a household name locally or regionally.
Besides a good content and pricing strategy, a DTH operator can stay competitive by providing excellent service to consumers and offering full customer support and assistance. One way to do this is to offer a warranty for STBs and other equipment, and to come up with packages that promote customer loyalty.
To stay competitive, costs must remain manageable. This can be done by streamlining the media lifecycle workflows, such as by using an integrated services platform like MX1 360, where all content is managed and taken through the various workflows as needed, ending up with a direct system-to-system distribution. Another way is to expand to offer OTT and VoD services once DTH has been established, which allows for user experience to be maximised at minimal additional cost.
While DTH is said to be challenged by new OTT and VoD platforms, it remains in-demand in Asia-Pacific, where viewers are opting for all possible ways to consume media. Likewise, although DTH is traditionally seen as the realm of big players, the obstacles to launching a DTH platform might not be as daunting as perceived.
 The Direct-to-Home Strategy Guide
 Keeping up with the market of Asian TV content
 The Asia Video Industry Report 2019
 Samsung, Spin Digital and SES showcase 8K content via satellite