There used to be a time when listening to the radio was against the law in Nepal. And today, anyone who travels to rural Nepal can see how the media landscape has changed - there are satellite dishes on the roofs of each household, and people easily tune in to Nepali and Indian TV channels.
Today 43% of (sampled) population consumes TV content daily, (Sharecast Initiatives Survey 2018) but behind the journey of the country’s transformation is a decade-long story of struggle.
Dish Media Limited, a broadcast and transmission company with 30% market share in Nepal, otherwise known as Dish Home, was a pioneer in this area. “Indian direct-to-home (DTH) providers in Nepal created a hype in the early 2000s, attracting many media companies with the promise of a growing market,” says Sudeep Acharya, CEO of Dish Home. “Companies believed they would soon double their investments, but instead everyone realized the need for proper homework.”
In 2010 the government granted authority to six companies to operate direct-to-home Dish TV. Within a few months, Marigold Entertainment, M Vision, and Home TV by Satellite Channel merged to form Dish Home. The reason was simple: growth of the business called for more content purchase and updated satellite—meaning a large investment that would not provide quick return, because growing the number of subscribers took time. Such risks were better shared with a team.
In 2011, Dish Home invested 360 million in the business with loans from 14 different banks and financial companies, but it still did not turn a profit. The company approached the market continuously and aggressively, guided by the right to information and a missionto make TV a household necessity. Acharya says, “After years of hard work, by 2018 we can finally say that we have become a profitable media company reaching all corners of Nepal.”
Dish Home also operates many subsidiary channels such as Channel DH Showcase, DH Showcase 2, Preview Channel, Plus Movie, Ramailo TV and DH Action Sports. It also broadcasts Indian serials and cartoons dubbed in Nepali, believing it could lead to the possibility of creating such content locally.
The main challenge for Dish Home is going fully digital to comply with the regulations of ITU, an international governing body of communication technologies. Unlike in India or the U.S. where government provides subsidy on set up box, adapters or other technologies to go digital, in Nepal customers get no such facilities. As a result, 65% of the company’s total subscription, mostly outside Kathmandu, is still analogue. Another challenge is the open border with India, which allows for easy entry of illegal dishes in Southern Nepal.
Despite the challenges, Acharya is upbeat about the future: Dish Home has planned exciting things for the upcoming the World Cup fever, broadcasting the games on DH Action Sports with live commentary in Nepali language. "At the moment, we are keeping the identity of the commentator in wraps, it you surely don't want to miss it!" says Acharya.