Television

Cable frat encouraged by positive response to CAS

NEW DELHI: What has come as a surprise to the cable industry is the response to conditional access system (CAS) from the people of South Delhi.

That itself seems encouraging enough for the industry to spruce up its act and try to improve on its own rather than go running to the government for solutions.

According to Hinduja TMT's director of business development and chief technical officer K V Seshasayee, "The response is encouraging and we foresee that over the next seven to 10 days the demand for set-top boxes (STBs) is only going to increase."

HTMT manages the affairs of INCableNet, a multi-system operator, having approximately 50,000 subscribers in South Delhi areas.

Some uncertainties (like inconclusive deals amongst broadcasters and MSOs) remain, but the idea is sinking in among the people that addressability is becoming inevitable.

"The initial cost, (including installation charges) looks a bit expensive for an average middle class India household, but then what the heck?" said a resident of Sadiq Nagar, an area populated with lower and middle class families.

"A bit of pressure tactics at prime time (meaning blackouts) would make the people realise what the reality is," a cable operator said, adding the free-to-air bouquet is not enough to satisfy people. Not with them now used to have at least between 40-50 channels at their fingertip.

INCableNet, says Seshasayee, has got orders for at least 1,000 boxes to be installed till today.

The response has also resulted in some showmanship. Questioned on the availability of adequate number of boxes to serve the subscriber in Delhi, Siti cable head Jawahar Goel retorted, "If we take some time for delivery, 

what's the harm? After all we are giving a basic package to CAS subscribers at a rate (at present Rs 100, excluding Star and Sony channels) that doesn't even cover our cost of servicing him."

He added, "We are doing this because the government had said that CAS has to consumer-friendly. Apna pet kaat rahen hain (we are reducing our own income by raising the expenses)."

What has aided the cable industry is the fact that because the subscriber and MSOs have already given subscription money to cable ops and broadcasters, respectively for December, showing of pay channels is not a problem.

True to their words, the MSOs kept sports channel ESPN on for the people to enjoy the historic win of Indian cricket team over Australia yesterday.

MSOs like Siti Cable, Hathway, along with cable TV industry bodies, have been holding meetings daily to chalk out the strategy.

Yesterday, the first day of CAS, MSOs and cable operators had claimed that approximately 5,000 boxes had been sold. Today big guns like Hathway and Siti Cable said, between them orders for another 7,000 have been 

placed.

Meanwhile, the federal government (read the information and broadcasting ministry) has preferred to keep itself away from the present round of CAS activities, saying the state government should look after the CAS-related issues.

The only role that the ministry is playing is that of monitoring unobtrusively all CAS developments.

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