Cas extension vista: MSOs tighten noose for customer choice data

NEW DELHI: A week ago, MSOs in the Cas mandated areas had been reluctant to cut off the pay channels of those subscribers who had rented STBs but were not filling in their forms, but now with the extension of Cas across the four metros around the corner, they have started taking strict measures.

Most of them have started disconnecting pay channels of such subscribers, and at least one of them says it is producing miracles.


"We are getting the filled up forms of subscribers who have been sitting on them for months within 24 hours of hacking off the pay channels and forcing them to watch only FTAs," SN Sharma, president, North India, Hathway revealed to

WWIL and Incable have also taken steps to see that subscribers fill in the forms, which is essential for ensuring QoS, and these are duly inputted in the databank that Trai would ask for, for its midyear assessment.

"We have told the customers that if they do not fill in the forms by 15 April, their pay channels will be disconnected," Arvind Mohan, EVP, WWIL, told


Approximately 60 per cent of WWIL subscribers have filled in their choices, Mohan said, adding that more are coming in now after the notices. In the case of Hathway, it is 70 per cent and for Incable it is 75 per cent, (national average) with slight variations between the cities).

Not just that, a senior official in another MSO, requesting anonymity, said: "We are not just cutting the pay channels of such subscribers, in fact, we are also taking away the boxes that LCOs had taken in bulk but have not seeded so far. We have to ensure that no unfair practices or damage to these boxes are allowed."

Apparently, MSOs, once accused by broadcasters of indulging in underdeclaration, feel that this has to be done away with. "We have to have a system of paying the broadcasters under this new addressable system," said a source in an MSO.

In practical terms, till now, all those subscribers who had taken STBs were being shown all channels, pay as well as FTAs. These included those who had not indicated their choices. That would mean that MSOs would have to pay all the broadcasters for all the STBs that have gone out in the Cas areas.

In return, they would be able to claim on actual channel basis for those 50 to 60 per cent who have indicated their choices, which would be a huge financial burden.

"We had said initially that in the interest of our industry and making Cas a success, we would take some amount of hit, but this is the limit. We cannot go on paying lumpsum for those who are paying on channel basis and those who are enjoying a service without fulfilling their responsibility by filling their forms," explained the MSO official.

But were the subscribers made aware of this?

Sharma said: "We have been sending dmails regularly (the mail that comes on the TV screen) and have disconnected only after that."

Asked whether Hathway is also taking away boxes lying unseeded from LCOs, Sharma said: "We do not have many such boxes. We do not allow that to happen in the first place. Yes, there are always a handful of extra boxes with LCOs, just in case a sudden call comes for seeding, but we strictly monitor use of boxes."

Company sources in Incable told "People only take STBs if they want to see pay channels. If some people have taken STBs only for the digital experience, then they can see only FTA channels through the STB (if he has not given choice for any pay channel). We switch off (encrypt, with access denied) only pay channels not STB boxes."

On the issue of taking unseeded boxes away from LCOs, Incable said: "All LCOs keep a minimum stock of STBs. As and when STBs are deployed, they give us the completed forms and details. The process is ongoing, so where is the question of return?"

Incable has details (customer choice) of around 75 per cent of the boxes (STBs) given to LCOs. The remaining STBs can be assumed as stocks lying with the LCOs, till we get the full details. As and when STBs are deployed, we get the form details."

Incidentally, industry sources say that this is an important preparatory action for the extension of Cas, that seems clearly on the horizon now.

There are pressure groups which do not want Cas to be extended, sources reveal, and they would lobby the government to take the position that in the addressable universe, however small, if SMS does not work and QoS is not ensured, the industry would be nowhere.

Broadcasters have been saying they would be happy if SMS works, and as Trai officials told last week, unless an individual subscriber becomes "a number" from just a name that the local cable chappy knows by rote, unless data from a name is inputted into a computerised system, QoS cannot be ensured.

Neither can the revenue sharing, at whatever agreed ratio, be able to find a meaningful basis without actual data on how many STBs are opting which channels. This is the pressure of the broadcasters on the Trai and government at the moment, which is why the emphasis on "if SMS works".

The wiser MSOs and the MSO Alliance are trying to persuade counterparts and this is a major part of the preparation for the first meeting between Trai and MSOs on the issue of Cas extension across the areas of the four metros to be held on 5 April.


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