Broadcasters, MSOs agree for genre-wise switch off ahead of 1 November

MUMBAI: Major broadcasters and multi-system operators (MSOs) have agreed to switch off genre-wise analogue signals of television channels in phases ahead of the 1 November deadline for digitisation in the four metros.

The consent of the broadcasters would not violate the earlier Tdsat ruling in favour of ESPN Star Sports that stated that the MSOs could not switch off analogue delivery of popular channels before 1 November.

Star, Zee, Multi Screen Media (MSM) and TV18 Group are among the major broadcasters who are in agreement with the MSOs, a move set to smoothen the transition from analogue to digital cable TV in the four metros.

Industry sources said the process of phase-wise withdrawal could begin from 10 October, three weeks before the complete analogue cable switch off. The first channels being considered would be English movie channels.

"We have agreed for a genre-wise switch off in phases," Media Network and Distribution Ltd MD and CEO Yogesh Radhakrishnan told Media Network distributes the Times Group of television channels including Times Now, ET Now, Movies Now and Zoom.

What this means in effect is that a particular genre of channels will not be available on analogue cable in the four metros in different time periods before 1 November.

"The date for digitisation deadline is not far off. All hell won‘t break loose and it is a practical step to take if we are to move into the new digital era. This is also a way to make consumers realise that they can‘t view television content from 1 November if they don‘t have digital STBs," an industry source said.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and MSOs had met under the aegis of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials to discuss on the state of preparedness of the stakeholders for meeting the 31 October deadline. The government has mandated the shutting down of analogue cable TV by 31 October midnight in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

It is not clear, however, if all the broadcasters are in agreement with this decision. Earlier, sports broadcaster ESPN, which is now telecasting the T20 World Cup, had moved the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (Tdsat) alleging that MSOs had stopped re-transmission of signals of its channels - ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket -- with a view to ensure the order of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry for digitisation of all cable networks in Delhi is implemented.

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