Cable TV

Mumbai cable ops demand Rs 150 pm for FTA bouquet

MUMBAI: Cable operators in Mumbai are up in arms and have rejected the 11 July 2003 government notification that sought to modify the manner in which conditional access system (CAS) would be rolled out across the four metros starting September 2003.

The representatives of the cable operators have expressed their concerns to the prime minister's office that the cable operators in the last zone (Zone D) will suffer the most as they will have to survive on this measly sum of Rs 72 throughout the duration of the four-month period starting September 2003. Mumbai based cable operators want the monthly charges for the free to air (FTA) channels to be increased to Rs 150.

Nearly 3,000 cable operators who met in Mumbai's Rang Sharda Hotel unanimously decided to avoid accepting the monthly fee of Rs 72 per subscriber. They claimed that they had not been taken into confidence by the government officials or multi system operator (MSO) representatives before the finalisation of the Rs 72 per subscriber per month rate for FTA channels. It is a known fact that Mumbai based cable operators weren't a part of the CAS task force at the time when the decision was taken.

While speaking to indiantelevision.com, Shiv Sena Vibhag Pramukh and Dattatray Cable proprietor Anil Parab says: "I spoke to the prime minister's office as well as the information and broadcasting ministry officials today. We have expressed our concerns and will wait for the authorities to take a decision in our favour." Parab will hand over a memorandum early next week to the concerned officials of the I&B ministry.

An indiantelevision.com report on 8 July had pointed out that it is the MSOs that would take the biggest hit in revenue terms in the zone-wise rollout scenario. This is becasue the phased rollout will at least protect ad revenues for the broadcasters.

The report also mentioned that "the pay broadcasters are all saying that the zonal rollout plan is fine but have a problem with the "free time" being given to areas such as Zone D (fourth and last zone) in the rollout plan, which benefit from the FTA pricing incentive plan for a full four months, while those in Zone A for instance will have only a month's grace period.

Star India COO Sameer Nair had earlier said that the MSOs held the key to box offtake during the process of implementation. Whether or not consumers start buying boxes would depend on the kind of packages that were drawn up, said Nair, while speaking to indiantelevision.com.

Nair was also quoted in an interview today with a leading business publication as saying: "The cable operator would now collect just Rs 72 during the 'honeymoon' period. Then, within this period, the cable operator is also expected to disseminate information about CAS, seed the market with set-top boxes. So one reduces his off-take from the market while his input costs will go up."

Shiv Sena's Parab also added a new twist by saying that the MSOs cannot "impose their imported set top boxes in Indian households without the aid of the local cable operator". This is a clear indication that Mumbai based cable operators are keeping their options open - they can reject "imported boxes" and adopt indigenously manufactured set top boxes during the process of CAS implementation.

Parab also did not rule out the possibility of a one-day black out to oppose the "anti-cable operator" CAS guidelines.

One wonders how the hassled I&B ministry officials will react to this latest salvo fired by the Mumbai based cable operators.

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