Mumbai based hotels firm up plans for CAS

MUMBAI: Although most of the five star hotels in Mumbai are playing the wait and watch game, few of them have announced their plans to have their own headend systems post the implementation of conditional access system (CAS) in the city. However, the general consensus is that the hotels will have to offer all the available pay channels as it is difficult to monitor choice. Mumbai based multi system operators have also started aggressively pitching for the business

While responding to a query, ITC Hotel Grand Maratha Sheraton and Towers marketing communications head Bindu Panicker says: "Currently we use Win Cable. However, ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton will be going in for its own head end system post CAS." The ITC hotel is located near the Mumbai airport in the suburbs.

However, Panicker says that it will not be possible to ascertain choices. "Our guests primarily comprise of international corporate business travellers who may or may not be aware of Doordarshan or the local channels. We shall provide the entire gamut of pay TV channels. And yes, we do have Doordarshan in the rooms," Panicker says to counter the misconception that hotels don't provide signals of the public broadcaster.

Most of the five star hotels in Mumbai get their signals from the multi system operators (MSOs) whereas others get it directly from the broadcasters. Representatives of the leading MSOs say that they will aggressively pitch for the business in the post CAS scenario. "The large number of hotel rooms available in these hotels will definitely provide opportunities for placing set top boxes. We are confident that hotels will give us bulk orders for set top boxes," says an MSO representative on conditions of anonymity.

There are other hotels that have a different viewpoint. Le Meridien group of hotels general manager and West Asia regional co-ordinator Julian R Groom says: "Currently, we have Win Cable that supplies us TV signals for the hotel. We have not finalised our plans for the post CAS scenario as yet. However, we shall either have a master lead top box or an alternative supplier of TV signals which will give us our own receivers." 

When questioned about the availability of Doordarshan, Groom adds: "Well, guests do not ask or prefer to watch Doordarshan. But, yes, it is available in all the rooms." 

The Oberoi Towers and The Oberoi group of hotels in Mumbai will adopt a different mechanism for providing cable TV to its guests. The hotel's marketing department executive Ashwathi Anthony says: "We have a signal feed directly from each channel via a dish. Presently we have a direct arrangement with each channel. As for the CAS, we await complete clarity on the same before commenting on the policy."

However, MSO representatives say that the broadcasters are charging a hefty premium while providing signals directly to such hotels. "The hotels pay up to five times the amount that retail customers pay. Why should the broadcasters discriminate between corporate customers such as (hotels) when other establishments (restaurants) pay the same amount as retail subscribers do? This has to change post CAS," says an MSO representative.

When queried about the issue of choice, The Oberoi group's spokesperson Anthony says: "DD along with other leading channels are available in the rooms. But we do not monitor the viewing patterns of guests on room selection."

Hyatt Regency marketing communications manager Jaya Joshi however doesn't foresee any major change. "We get our TV signals from the main supplier and not through any cable distributor, therefore conditional access system (CAS) will not affect us," says Joshi.

Well, MSOs will get a chance to convert the waverers even as the new CAS deadline has given them ample time and opportunity to renew their sales pitch to the hotels.

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