Cable TV

LCOs demand access to SMS from MSOs

KOLKATA: The process of shifting from analogue to digital feed is not without its share of problems; a key issue being the resultant tug-of-war between local cable operators (LCOs) and multi system operators (MSOs) over access to the subscriber management system (SMS).

The Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems (DAS) requires MSOs to establish a subscriber management system (SMS), where details of all subscribers, along with their choice of services including channels and bouquets, are maintained.

While cable and entertainment analysts feel, “This brings in addressability and consequently, complete transparency in the whole system,” LCOs have a different take on the matter. They are of the opinion that once MSOs start billing consumers directly, they may end up losing control over their hard-won subscribers. Hence, they’re now asking MSOs to allow them access to the SMS to avoid such an eventuality.

Says Rajiv Sharma, lead analyst (telecom and media), HSBC Securities: “LCOs are worried about losing control over their subscribers if MSOs bill directly. They are of the view that MSOs should allow LCOs access to subscriber management systems, which are similar to what is being done for airline ticketing.”

A city-based cable op told, on condition of anonymity, that he had worked very hard for the last 20 years and it would be very unprofessional if his business and database were to go out of his hand and to the MSO whom he would then have to depend on totally.

Meanwhile, an MSO questioned as to how he could allow LCOs access to the SMS which his company had spent a few crores on. Typically, it’s the MSOs that invest in infrastructure including network, encryption, ERP, call centers and SMS.

Director Manthan Broadband Services pointed out the benefits of SMS as enabling subscribers exercise their choice of services and budget their bills accordingly. “It also helps us in managing their accounting and billing of the services rendered effectively in the long term,” said he.

Cable analyst Namit Dave suggested that MSOs and LCOs should work hand-in-hand for mutual benefit. While Sharma pointed out that the battle between MSOs and LCOs was sending out wrong signals to the investor community. “Gross billing remains a deterrent for MSOs and we anticipate some delay as we don’t expect clarity on the entertainment tax issue anytime soon,” he said. News is Hathway has suggested it expects to move to gross billing not before phase I i.e. the fourth quarter of the current fiscal.

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