Industry told to get cracking on CAS


MUMBAI: It was a session that was keenly awaited and lived up to its billing as one of the highlights of FRAMES 2003. "Conditional Access Systems - a Mid-Term Review" confirmed two points. One is that despite all the humming and hawing from certain quarters, all the players are drawing up their own plans for life in a post-CAS rollout scenario. The other being that while there might be some addressability by mid-July, most players were looking at the year-end as providing a better picture of the contours of CAS

As far as the government?s take on a key issue exercising the industry, I&B joint secretary Rakesh Mohan more or less laid it out loud and clear, there had been enough talking on the issue. The government had done its bit by inviting as wide a level of opinion as was possible and it was after taking feedback from the industry that the six-month timeline had been arrived at, Mohan said.

Mohan also dismissed as unwarranted the contention that it was due to the government?s delay in clearly outlining the terms of reference for the basic tier that there was a delay happening as far as getting business plans off the ground were concerned. The government was only a facilitator in the process he stressed, while warning that it would be foolhardy on the part of the stakeholders in the business to try and stretch matters out any further.

Outside of that a very well represented group of panelists from all sections of the industry were in on the session chaired by indiantelevision.com CEO Anil Wanvari.

This is the gist of what came out of those discussions:

Shantonu Aditya, SET-Discovery Ltd, stressed that customers as well as industry people needed to be educated about the implications of CAS so as to make the transition smooth. 'There is a need to create awareness among customers about their right to choose what they want to see and pay for that only, he said.

Further emphasising on the rollout issue, Aditya said the availability of the boxes and cheap financing options available to the customer would make the transition faster. There are some issues related to the technology and quality, but it will be sorted out in phased manner. If CAS is implemented properly, it will definitely be a boon for the industry, as various issues which industry is facing acutely, will be to a great extent resolved. For that to happen successfully, all the constituents in the industry have to work closely, he urged. Talking on the post-CAS scenario, foresaw bundling of channels there also. Talking on the pricing issues he did not disclose any pricing strategy, but said that there would be differential pricing. All broadcasters would do the pricing depending on the demand in different territories, he said.

CASBAA CEO Simon Davies sounded very positive about the future of the industry in India. Pointing to the experience of other Asian countries like Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, he stated that India would ultimately get it right. He revealed that China, which is the largest pay TV market, is looking at India to work out how it would implement CAS.

The Delhi-based Cable Networks Association general secretary Rakesh Datta, speaking on behalf of last mile operators, said that consumer concerns were unfounded as India had the lowest cable subscription rates in the world. And pleading that it was the consumer who would lose out if as some were saying, CAS would make LMOs redundant, Datta said this needed top be resisted. LCOs represented the last line of defence against the vertically integrated monopolies (Zee and Star were what he was referring to).

Datta said that a fair price for the basic tier was Rs 180. According to Datta, whether the basic tier was priced at Rs 180 or even below Rs 100, there would be no difference to the consumer as the broadcasters would simply rework their pricing strategies accordingly.

Zee Group cable arm SitiCable?s boss Jawahar Goel clarified two points. There would be no question of any Zee bouquet channel turning FTA and secondly that he did not see DTH costing the consumer more than Rs 1,000 more than the upend cable package.

Hinduja TMT?s Ashok Mansukhani said his network was ready and waiting to roll out CAS. Mansukhani said that INCableNet would be ready to roll ahead of the 14 July deadline.

Hathway Cable?s K Jayaraman also alluded to what Aditya had said about the consumers needing to be educated about what CAS was all about.

Both Jayaraman and Mansukhani said some workable solutions would be devised for consumers who wished to migrate to other areas as regards what they were to do with the set top they had purchased.

Zee Turner CEO Sunil Khanna, meanwhile, said there would certainly be a cost attached to the STB that would have to be borne by the consumer and those that were advocating that it be underwritten by the industry were on a wrong track.

Khanna gave an impassioned plea that duties on STBs be reduced (as did Mansukhani earlier) and said this would actually lead to increased revenues for the government since the larger the number of boxes that the public purchased, there would be accruals in the form of huge increases in service, entertainment and income taxes.

Khanna said efforts needed to be made to make the transition as seamless as possible and for that all the stakeholders in the value chain, consumers, LMOs, MSOs, broadcasters and the regulatory authorities needed to be working in tandem rather than at cross purposes.


The session: Panel Discussion on Conditional Access System :A mid term review.

Moderator:Indiantelevision.com CEO Anil Wanvari

The speakers: I&B joint secretary Rakesh Mohan, SitiCable Network Ltd vice chairman Jawahar Goel, CASBAA CEO Simon Twiston Davies, Hinduja TMT Executive Vice President- Corporate Services Ashok Mansukhani, SET Discovery President Shantonu Aditya, Zee Turner CEO Sunil Khanna, Hathway Cable CEO K Jayaraman, Cable Network Association General Secretary Rakesh Dutta


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