Buoyed by positive growth in wireless customers and data traffic in the June quarter, Bharti Airtel is planning to revamp AirtelThanks, its content offer.
The idea is to upgrade more customers to fourth-generation technology (4G) and enhance data consumption per user. The revamp of AirtelThanks is likely in the next three to four months, said the management.
The Airtel TV and Wynk Music apps have 50 million subscribers, said analysts. Shashwat Sharma, chief marketing officer of the firm, said the number of subscribers covered under AirtelThanks was beyond their 95 million 4G customers as the offer was open for the 2G base as well. “While the entry point for the urban crowd can be through international content platforms, there is a huge migrating population in the country who are turning to the programme, not only for the content but also for additional benefits offered,” he said.
Besides Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Airtel is offering access to OTT (direct streaming) content from ZEE5, HOOQ, Eros Now, and ALT Balaji, among others, on Airtel TV Premium. The company said a prime reason for its sustained growth in the India wireless market was AirtelThanks’ offer of higher content benefits, tapping into the one thing that drives the nation — entertainment.
Airtel lost only 1.5 million users in the June quarter, against 14 million lost by Vodafone Idea. What worked for Airtel was that its data traffic growth was 13 percent sequentially and average data usage was even higher than Reliance Jio’s (a 4G-only player) at 11.9 gigabytes a month per user, helped by AirtelThanks.
Taking a cue from this, Airtel plans to leverage the platform for gaining more data traffic. AirtelThanks, launched in August 2018, was revamped this quarter with offerings such as insurance and online courses from leading global economies, and home broadband customers. “We’re also getting confidence that we could also use AirtelThanks in a way to drive other streams of revenue such as carrier billing. Perhaps some early sign of this is through advertising and that is something we are assessing,” said Gopal Vittal, managing director, after the quarter’s results were announced.
However, as its mobile 4G data users increased by 63 percent to 95.2 million in the quarter, from 58.3 million in the same period a year before, content costs also grew. Note that rival Jio has been pushing digital recharges on its network to the extent that it cost them in average revenue per user (ARPU). While Vodafone Idea continues to offer content at a similar pace as Airtel, the company hasn’t been able to show the same demand.
“In 2018-19, content costs (for Airtel) rose 30 percent year on year, reflecting the impact of the content deals with Zee5 and Netflix,” said G V Giri, analyst at IIFL.
The aggressive spending on content has converted to rapid growth in Airtel’s 4G base over a year. In the June quarter of 2018-19, Airtel and Vodafone Idea each had about 58 million 4G subscribers. A year after, Airtel had raced ahead to 95 million, around 11 million ahead of Vodafone Idea’s. While the latter gained four percent in terms of ARPU, even as it lost 14 million subscribers, Airtel registered a sector-best ARPUof Rs 129, a rise of 5 percent. In the bargain, it only lost 1.5 million subscribers.―Business Standard