Broadcasters' 'early bird' offer to STB buyers

NEW DELHI: Even as the government is preparing to issue another notification related to conditional access system (CAS), pay broadcasters have conveyed to the government that those consumers who buy a set-top box right away would be offered all pay channels free for a month or more.

It is also understood that the broadcasters would absorb a large part of the financial implication of this scheme, while the MSOs would also take some of the burden.

If this works out, then it means that consumers who buy a box between September and December may only have to have Rs 72, plus taxes, for TV channels, including pay and free to air.

According to government sources, Zee Telefilms CMD Subhash Chandra has personally conveyed to information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad of the schemes that Zee and other broadcasters would offer to consumers for a month or more to lure them into buying boxes.

Chandra, who could not be contacted by for a confirmation on this, is also reported to have told the minister that others like Star and Sony have also agreed on this, government sources said. Official comments from Star India and Sony Entertainment TV India were also not available today. CAS is slated to be rolled out area-wise in the four metros of Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai from 1 September


Government officials today also admitted that there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm amongst the general hoi-polloi of the four metros on CAS or its implementation as most people are slightly skeptical on the rollout.

"Our feedback is that there is certainly some difficulty in pushing the boxes as the people are still uncertain on the fate of CAS because of political reasons," a senior government official today said.

Some government officials recently had a meeting with the industry representatives in Mumbai to take stock of the situation as also toured some areas there where CAS is likely to be rolled out as part of the first phase in south zones.

The officials also said that the industry expects by 1 September about 4,35,000 boxes would be in the country. "The problem now doesn't seem to be of the boxes, but people actually acquiring them," an official said.

According to the information available with the government, 1,53,000 boxes have been cleared by the customs department till 31 July, while another 80,000-odd are being assembled in the country. In addition, about 53,000 boxes are in the process of being cleared by government departments.

It is also learnt that the broadcasters want the government to continue playing the role of facilitator till the time the CAS issue is settled formally and the rollout becomes normal.


The proposed notification would detail the type of set-top boxes and after sales services that would be offered to a consumer by a cable operator.

According to a government official, the draft of the notification is being studied by the law ministry and would be issued soon.

The notification would detail, among other things, the following subjects that a cable operator would have to follow and also ensure that it is properly conveyed to a consumer:

· Type of set-top box

· Purpose of the box

· Technical specifications

· Payment schemes

· The refundable security amount (if the box is taken on rent)

· Time for refund

· Maintenance details

· Validity of the offer

· Number of call centers for complaints , etc

· Period of warranty

The proposed notification, which would be the fourth in the CAS series, would also make it mandatory for the cable service provider to tell the consumers of an area 15 days before addressability is rolled out there.

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