MUMBAI: Multisystem operators (MSOs) are in for some serious competition. This time from a MSO cooperative formed by the Maharashtra Cable Operators Federation (MCOF) along with BR Cable Network, christened SCOPE (Synergy Cable Operators Private Limited).
The first-of-its-kind cable virtual network operator (CVNO) will be formally inaugurated on 2 May, which coincides with the opening day of MCOF’s conference for LMOs called the National Conclave on Broadband and Cable (NCBC-2014).
Already, SCOPE has starting seeding boxes in Mumbai. "While we have seeded boxes in Vile Parle and Thane, in the next 10 days, we will be seeding boxes in 50 other locations in Mumbai and Thane," MCOF president Arvind Prabhoo tells indiantelevision.com.
The newly-minted set-up will borrow its infrastructure from BR Cable Network while operations will be handled by MCOF. "This is a way to re-empower the last mile owners. It is they who will manage the subscribers. They will have full ownership of the customers, unlike what is happening in the current scenario, where the MSO claims ownership of the customers. Also, the LMOs will have limited access to the SMS, where they can feed all details about the customer and bill the subscriber," explains Prabhoo.
Unlike the rest of the cable TV industry, SCOPE will enter the market, with packages in place. "We will create packages according to the needs of subscribers. While other players have still not got packaging in place, we will give consumers the choice to watch what they want to," informs Prabhoo. "We will not deal with broadcasters on our own. We will take the channels from BR Cable and then package them to give them to our subscribers.”
SCOPE will pay BR Cable 15 paise per channel, per set top box, per month as signal processing charges. SCOPE will pay a minimum of Rs 15 per STB per month and a maximum of Rs 25 per STB per month for any number of channels it takes from BR Cable. Over and above this, SCOPE will pay the operator content cost charges as per the package. For subscribers, minimum package cost will be Rs 125 and this will include all the Marathi channels and have a top-up channel facility. The LMO will get 60 per cent of the package fee, the subscriber opts for. SCOPE has already bought 50,000 STBs and placed an order for an additional 2 lakh boxes. Currently, all members of MCOF are part of SCOPE. Ask Prabhoo how big is SCOPE and he laughs, "The number of LMOs who have come together is staggering, beyond someone's belief."
Each LMO has made an initial investment of Rs 1 lakh in return for 100 STBs. "The best part of the cooperative is that irrespective of the number of subscribers one owns, every LMO has five shares in the company," informs Prabhoo
MCOF hopes that SCOPE will serve as a role model for DAS phase III and phase IV. MCOF also hopes that in the beginning, SCOPE customers will achieve savings of 25 per cent over the prevailing MSO packages and at least 15 per cent over comparable DTH offerings.
About adding customers, Prabhoo says, "Well initially, we will convert 25 per cent of our existing customer base to SCOPE customers, replacing their existing boxes with the SCOPE box, at no additional cost. If any customer wants to upgrade, we will give them the SCOPE HD STB.” The SCOPE SD box will cost Rs 1,100 and the HD box Rs 1,500.
The new entrant will also provide high speed internet service to its customers. "The service will be provided by Bolt. Subscribers can opt for any kind of speed they want and at 30 per cent less than what is provided by others,” says Prabhoo. Plans are afoot for bundling services like a cable and internet combo pack. The MSO will also launch an Android box.
SCOPE is eyeing not only Maharashtra, but the whole country. Even as its collaboration with BR Cable Network takes off, it has also got into an arrangement with CCN from Siliguri. "This model can be applied throughout the country. People will realise this is the way forward," says Prabhoo, who is hopeful that more MSOs will want to get associated with SCOPE once they understand the model.
"We don't want LMOs from phase III and IV, to suffer the way we did. And so this set up," he signs off.