FTV encrypting 1 November

Come 1 November and French fashion channel FTV will become an encrypted feed.

Preparations for the conversion to a digital feed are on in full swing, says Rajan Kaaicker, CEO Distribution Group, Modi Entertainment Network, the channel's current distributer in India. According to Kaaicker, 60 per cent of the seeding operations concerning distribution of set top boxes have been completed. The full rollout is expected to be complete by 15 November, he says.

Kaaicker said Modi was using the more expensive Scientific Atlanta set tops costing roughly Rs 33,000 and had no plans to subsidise them. He however said that there would be various payment packages that would be worked out with operators. Kaaicker would not reveal how many boxes he planned to distribute across the country.

Queried as to whether distribution of the channel would be restricted post-encryption considering its niche character, Kaaicker said all-India distribution was what he was looking at as FTV was being positioned as a youth and lifestyle channel. He said currently FTV had a viewer base of 23 million and that was the viewership he expected post-encryption as well.

As to what price the channel was being offered, Kaaicker would only say it would be part of a package deal. Cable industry sources reveal that MEN is bundling FTV along with Hallmark and DD Sports, the two other channels it currently distributes along with French music channel MCM. The cost for all three channels has been put at Rs 13.15 in the metros. The sources say that for the present no price tag is being put on FTV but the costs of both DD Sports and Hallmark have been hiked and the softener as it were is that FTV comes along with the other two. According to the sources, DD Sports which was earlier priced at Rs 5.50 will now cost Rs 7.15 while Hallmark will go up from Rs 3 to Rs 6.

How the cable operators will respond to this move is still unclear though. It should be noted that representatives of two MSOs in Mumbai said they were yet to receive notification on the issue. The representative of a third MSO, while acknowledging that they had received an intimation, said a decision had yet to be taken as to whether to accept the new package rates.

The question that has no clear answer is who would be willing to pay for FTV. It seems to attract a very fragmented viewer base and that too at odd hours. One cable operator had this insight to offer though. According to him, the channel is very popular in the smaller centres for its "hot" content.

It is also true that the monies coming to FTV through ad sales is zilch and moving to a pay mode makes sense if for no other reason than the fact that a regular income source is established.

FTV beams off the Asiasat 2 satellite.

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