Behind the ongoing legal tussle between direct-to-home (DTH) company Tata Sky and Sun TV lies the growth potential of DTH, with about 10 lakh new DTH subscribers likely to come from the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the next one year.

According to industry experts, while about 20 lakh new DTH subscribers will be added by the end of 2008, half will come from south India, thus making it a battleground for all DTH players such as Dish TV (Zee), Tata Sky and Sun Direct (Sun TV).

Currently, there are 30 lakh DTH subscribers in the country with Dish TV commanding 25 lakh subscribers and 5 lakh loyal to Tata Sky. By 2008, there will be 50 lakh DTH subscribers, with the addition of three new players such as Sun Direct from Sun TV, Reliance Bluemagic from ADAG Reliance group and Bharti’s DTH foray, all competing for new subscribers.

With Sun TV’s DTH venture, Sun Direct becoming operational in the next two-three months, Sun TV has not provided its channels to Tata Sky thereby hampering its expansion in south India and leading to a legal battle between the two before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

Even as the legal battle continues, both Tata Sky and Dish TV are strengthening their expansion plans in the southern market. Currently, Dish TV has about 20 per cent of its subscribers from south India while Tata Sky has about 10 per cent south India subscribers.

While Tata Sky hopes to acquire two-three lakh new subscribers in the southern market in the next 12-15 months, Dish TV expects to get at least 3-4 lakh subscribers in the same period. Sun Direct is eyeing to capture a majority of the subscribers riding on its brand presence, language-specific bouquets and an attractive pricing, sources said.

Explaining the relevance of the southern market, Jawahar Goel, business head of Dish TV said, “It is a lucrative market for every DTH player. Over 40 per cent of the cable & satellite homes are in south India. People are educated and are large consumers of media that makes it significant for everyone.”