Chennai: Sharply upping the ante as it seeks to ward off competition from a Tamil Nadu state government-backed rival, Sun Direct TV Pvt. Ltd is launching a direct-to-home (DTH) service dubbed Sun Direct with a low monthly subscription of Rs75, excluding taxes.
Sun Direct, to be launched by the end of the month, will offer 75 TV channels
and 15 radio channels. Both the dish and set-top box would be free, but the company will collect one-time installation charges of Rs999.
Numbers game: A file photo of Kalanidhi Maran, promoter of Sun TV. The company’s low DTH subscription rate is garnering protests from cable TV operators, who fear it would wean their customers away.
“Tamil Nadu is a test market for us to offer DTH service,” said a top official in-charge of Sun Direct, who requested anonymity. “The offer (Rs75 for 75 channels) is only in Tamil Nadu. We want to see how this package works.”
Sun Direct is a 80:20 joint venture between Sun TV’s core promoters Kalanidhi Maran, his wife Kaveri Maran and Malaysia-based Astro Group. A Sun TV spokesperson declined to comment. The launch of Sun Direct comes at a time when the state government has decided to start its own cable TV distribution company, Arasu Cable TV Corp. Ltd. This was seen as a move to break the near-monopoly hold of the Marans in the cable distribution network through their Sumangali Cable Television.
Also, a new Tamil satellite channel sporting the nickname name of Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, called Kalignar TV, was launched on 15 September and is seen by many as a credible challenger to Sun Network’s domination of Tamil satellite TV market. Once close to the chief minister and the ruling DMK, the Marans have fallen out of favour in recent months.
Cable operators in the state had welcomed the formation of Arasu and say they are strongly opposed to the pricing strategy of Sun Direct. At Rs75 per subscriber, Sun Direct is on par with the lowest subscription rate (Rs78 excluding tax) offered by cable TV operators in the state.
These operators say they are planning to stop transmission of the Sun TV package on 23 September for a day and also stop paying Sun Network Rs35 for its pay channels. They also plan to hold protest meetings on Monday in all district headquarters. They are demanding the state government to impose a luxury tax of Rs75 per DTH subscriber.
Sun Direct’s low subscription rate is garnering protests from cable TV operators, who fear it would wean their customers away. P. Shakilan, president of Thamizhaga Cable TV Operators General Welfare Association, which claimed to have 40,000 members and 8.5 million subscribers, said his association will file a police compliant against Sun Direct for “cheating and misleading” the public. “They claim to give dish and receiver free, but are charging Rs999 for installation,” he said. “Why should it cost so much to install a dish?”