NEW DELHI: Reliance Big TV has started offering 500 channels, effectively for free, as the company looks to repeat Reliance Industries’ gouging of the telecommunications sector.

The company announced its offer of 500 standard channels for five years, and one year of premium channels free with the installation of the Big TV set top box, Business Standard reported. The total sum of Rs 2000 ($30) for equipment and installation is, however, refundable after three years in the form of recharge.

“Starting from today, entertainment comes effectively free of cost,” said Vijender Singh, Director of the industrial giant’s TV subsidiary, as he announced “the beginning of a new dawn in the way Indians have been accessing entertainment on their TV sets.”

Though Reliance Industries no longer owns Reliance TV, its namesake is deploying a strategy that the larger company pioneered and scaled. When it launched Jio in September 2016, the “startup,” its offer of practically free 4G sim packages garnered 16 million subscribers in one month, the company claimed.  

Jio pivoted to a paid service from April 2017, but the "freebies" damage was done. Jio now boasts more than 10% market share in the telco category and has created a dent in the profitability of major competitors.

To compete with free products, category incumbents were compelled to slash rates in order to remain competitive with the upstart challenger brand.

Though Reliance Industries’ digital TV is not a startup in the same way, having launched in 2008 and occupying 2% of the total market, the offer will most likely throw down a new standard which other companies will have to follow to remain competitive.

Growth in the segment was flat in the latter part of 2017, according to figures from the Telecom Regulatory of India, and average revenue per user continued its decline.

Sourced from Business Standard, Livemint, Indian Express, Indian Television; additional content by WARC staff