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Dual LCN helping consumers, says KCCL's Shaji Mathews

MUMBAI: Kerala Communicators Cable Ltd (KCCL) CEO Shaji Mathews believes dual local channel numbers (LCN) is helping consumers and that its fate should be left to the market.

2017 saw many channels, especially news broadcasters, raising the issue of channels broadcasting themselves on two LCNs thus creating biased ratings in their favour. Their contention was that the channel gets overarching visibility for viewers. “I don’t see any problem in dual LCN and why the government is restricting dual LCN. They need to rectify the rating system if they see some issues in the rating of a channel. Dual LCN is helping the consumer and we should leave it to the market to decide,” Mathews told in an interaction.

The structure of the Indian cable and satellite TV distribution market is evolving, led by digitisation of cable network mandated by the government. The Kerala cable industry has benefitted from the digitisation process with over 5000 cable operators and 50 lakh active subscribers.

KCCL is an initiative of independent cable TV operators in Kerala under the guidance of Cable Operators Association (COA). COA is an umbrella union of local cable operators all over Kerala. KCCL has around 25 lakh active subscribers according to Mathews. The digitisation in the state was complete in March 2017.

“In Kerala, the majority of the market is with KCCL and Asianet Cable. Apart from this, there are about a dozen small cable operators. The size of the state’s cable industry is around Rs 100 crore,” says Mathews.

Mathews shares that the overall revenue has gone up because pay subscribers have increased. “The ARPU (average revenue per user) remains the same after the shift to digital from analogue, which is below Rs 200 in Kerala,” Mathews reveals.

He says that small cable operators didn’t complete the digitisation on time because of various reasons such as non-availability of STBs and expecting the dates to be postponed.

For KCCL’s first project-Kerala Vision Channel-raised a share capital of Rs 1.5 crore in 2006. The channel today covers 20 lakh homes in Kerala. Now its share capital is enhanced to Rs 10 crore with the approval of Registrar of Companies, SEBI and other government authorities. The capital outlay for the second major project is Rs 8.5 crore, 50 per cent of which has already been raised from the existing shareholders.

There is already a cumulative investment of Rs 500 crore in the cable TV industry in the form of equipment, networking, studios and other infrastructure owned by individual cable TV operators all over the state with a consolidated turnover of Rs 250 crore per annum.

Mathews lashed out at broadcasters who indulge in discriminative pricing. “To keep the competition going, the big broadcasters give their channel feeds to small operators for very low rates which forces us to negotiate and accept their terms and conditions.”

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had clarified that a channel can only be present at one LCN number and the landing page would be considered as a separate one which is not allowed and TRAI has the right to investigate and take action.

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