IBF breaks ice; formal meet to push Cas held between broadcasters, MSOs

NEW DELHI: Though none of the parties concerned were willing to talk on the subject, a rapprochement between broadcasters and MSOs was worked out with the first formal meeting between them organised by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation.

The meeting, a marked departure from the for-long confrontational stances taken by the two sides, opens up new vistas of cooperative effort for digitalisation and Cas.

The inevitability of Cas rolling out and getting extended, to the entirety of the three metros on a mandated regime and in 55 other cities on a voluntary basis, is said to have triggered the meeting.


The meeting, which was held in Mumbai on 27 June, was convened by the IBF and coordinated by Set Discovery president Anuj Gandhi, discussed a wide range of issues that had been mutual irritants, but sources said that both the parties were looking at a happier horizon now. The meeting, which started at 6 pm, lasted for more than two hours.

Gandhi, when contacted, said it was "just a private meeting, general chit chat", but agreed that the broader issue of Cas extension was discussed.

However, sources said that the meeting was elaborate, so that issues like piracy, under-declaration even in an addressable system, pressure from broadcasters to increase subscriber base, and such others would not become hurdles in the path of digitalisation.

Sources told that Gandhi took the initiative to stress that Cas and digitalisation is here to stay and was a major business opportunity, but issues had to be straightened out.

"Perhaps issues like piracy, etc., will no longer raise their heads, for the broadcasters are now clear that SMS data is correct, and realise that one or two LCOs indulging in piracy or underdeclaration did not make the MSOs as a whole responsible," an MSO source said.

He said that though it was not explicitly discussed, the reason why the broadcasters convened the meeting was "their realisation that Trai needed to proceed towards a de-regulisation regime and that would be possible only if broadcasters and MSOs worked together.

One issue that had been discussed was value content and niche content, and it has been agreed that the MSOs and broadcasters need more inclusive dialogue to get that done, the first time that such a development has taken place.

"We need to discuss and work out good packages that will lure subscribers towards Cas and digitalisation, which would then become more profitable for both parties, as we all eat portions of the same pie," a source revealed.

"This was a major step forward in confidence building and we know each other better," a source said, using the phrase "a lot of bonhomie" to underscore the general mood of the meeting.

The three key MSOs, Hathway, Incable and WWIL had been invited to what IBF sources repeatedly stressed was an ‘agenda-less" meeting, and the broadcasters were represented by MTV, Star, Sony and Zee, among others.

The source said that normally in such circumstances such meetings would become a monthly affair, though the immediate next step is still being worked out, with notes from the meeting being compiled and then to be sent to all the parties, and a second meeting soon could be expected.

Incidentally, the MSOs had been saying for a long time that the broadcasters ought to work out content and others issues in discussion with them, and they came away from the meeting in a positive frame of mind.

What is interesting is that a few days ahead of the meeting, a senior IBF official had told, "Though there are problems, we are happy with Cas if seen in the long run," something that had sounded incongruous because many in the industry had been insisting Cas is a bane.

Perhaps that comment, coming on the eve of the meeting, had been a curtain raiser.


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