SET plans novel use of STBs

NEW DELHI: With the conditional access system (CAS) gone for a six at least in Delhi and Mumbai, Sony Entertainment TV (SET) India is looking at offering special packages of programmes and services to those subscribers who already have set-top boxes (STBs). This will be in association with multi-system operators (MSOs).

Pointing out that this is the best time for the industry to "move the boxes" in a market-friendly manner, SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta today said, "We are looking at the business opportunity of supplying content on demand to subscribers through STBs, now that the uncertainty over CAS has almost been removed." Dagupta was interacting with journalists on the sidelines of a press conference here to announce the launch of Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin.

Dasgupta was of the opinion that the broadcasters, MSOs and other stakeholders can come together at this time to take advantage of the situation. He said some boxes have been seeded in the market, in anticipation of CAS. His plan can now be leveraged to "move the boxes in the market faster".

Dasgupta also confirmed that Sony would be part of Zee Group Cable arm Siti Cable's headend in the sky (HITS) plan for CAS delivery as well as Zee's direct-to-home (DTH) programme.

His comments are pertinent in the light of the strong assertion made yesterday by Discovery-SET India president Shantanu Aditya refuting a report on that the "Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) had directed Star, Sony and ESPN Star Sports to provide signals to the Zee-promoted HITS platform till the next hearing, which is scheduled for 10 September."

With Dasgupta's confirmation that SET would be on the HITS platform, the question of the MRTPC issuing a directive becomes superfluous.

Coming back to the subject of supplying content to subscribers through STBs, though SET hasn't opened up talks with other broadcasters on this, Dasgupta feels that his company would start work on this plan as soon as possible, probably "as soon as next week".

As an illustration, Dasgupta cited Sony's acquisition of telecast rights of the blockbuster Hindi movie Saathiya, starring Vivek Oberoi and Rani Mukherjee. "Ideally I would like to premier Saathiya as part of this special package over cable for those subscribers who would like to pay to watch this film through their STBs. Later the movie can also be shown on Max or Sony," he explained.

The special packages of programmes and services that SET India is looking at include movie package, classic music concerts like those of Lata Mangeshkar, sports, and even gaming solutions and music for downloading from the digital cable head-end servers.

"The box, in the absence of CAS, would sit idle. So why not make use of them to provide suck packages and services. I am also looking at introducing gaming packages and this is the way to move the (boxes) market," Dasgupta said.

He opined that the gaming packages can be sourced from SET India's parent company Sony, which is a big player in the computer gaming sector worldwide with the likes of Playstation series.

According to Dasgupta, SET India can be ready with such special packages and services "within three months" as Sony is already in the process of digitalising its content.

Meanwhile, Dasgupta feels that with the Shiv Sena staunchly opposed to CAS in Mumbai, addressability issue now would get deferred to after the general elections late next year.

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