Television

MSOs promise all channels in Rs 222

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NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: On Wednesday it was the big broadcasters (excluding Zee Telefilms) that threw their "pricing spanner" in the works of the conditional access roadshow.

 

 

Today saw the cable trade delivering their riposte. The MSOs have announced their own pricing structure that will be applicable for subscribers who opt for pay channels post-14 July, which is the deadline for the rollout of CAS in the four metros.



In an attempt to give the broadcasters a fait accompli scenario, the pricing model that they have thrown up promises the pay TV subscriber all channels for a total cost of Rs 222, excluding 8 per cent service tax and entertainment tax (Rs 30 per cable point in Mumbai and Rs 20 in Delhi). 



According to the cable ops, the cost break-up is Rs 72 for the free-to-air (FTA) channels, Rs 75 for pay TV distribution costs (the cost that it takes to re-distribute pay channels, including subscriber management systems) and Rs 75 as the total tab that will come for all the pay channels.



Announcing the rates, Vikki Choudhry, president of National Cable & Telecom 

Association (NCTA) and an independent cable operator of Delhi said, "In the 

absence of any indication from the broadcasters, we have calculated that the 

broadcasters' share ought to be Rs 75 per subscriber. Now, it is up to them to price their pay channels accordingly."



Going by this pricing model, all broadcasters would have to share amongst 

themselves Rs 75 per subscriber per month. And if Choudhry is to be 

believed, then there are 32 pay channels at the moment, which means that Rs 

75 between 32 pay channels would mean that a pay channel would have to cost 

an average of Rs 2.34.



When Choudhry was asked to comment on the outcome if the broadcasters rejected the suggested pricing, which will also have to be intimated to the government, he said: "Well, according to the notification, if pay channels don't fall in line or announce their prices, they'll get blanked out automatically."



There is an obvious glitch in this pretty picture painted by the MSOs, of 

course. If the government and the MSOs rejected the price plan circulated by 

Star/ Sony/ ESPN Star Sports on Wednesday as being unsigned and not serious 

in intent, the Rs 75 figure for all pay channels that the cable ops have 

arrived at is even more meaningless without broadcaster support.



Be that as it may, Zee Telefilms additional vice-chairman and head of SitiCable Jawahar Goel went even lower on the pay channel pricing front. Goel says: "In support of the Central government's initiative (towards CAS), SitiCable has instituted an introductory offer that will deliver all pay channels to CA enabled subscribers at Rs 128." This offer will be valid until the assembly elections due in November, Goel said.



Those who attended today's press conference to show solidarity included 

representatives from INCableNet, Spectranet, SitiCable (represented by Zee Telefilms additional vice-chairman Jawahar Goel), Roop Sharma of Cable Operators' Federation of India, Rakesh Dutta of Cable Networks Association and Dr AK Rastogi of the Avishkar Dish Antenna Sangh.



If Goel used the platform to announce SitiCable's own introductory offer and indicate that "a bugle has to be sounded" in support of reduction or total waiver of entertainment tax (Delhi collected a mere Rs 60 million as entertainment tax from cable operators in the last financial year), Roop Sharma went a step ahead to say that the government is meting out step-motherly treatment to the cable fraternity.



"A complaint against a cable operator by a consumer in any police station is 

a cognizable offence. If that is so, then the same type of law should be 

applicable to the broadcasters also, most of who have been been going 

against government diktat and not announcing the individual prices of the 

pay channels," Sharma lashed out, even as Goel, who is also the additional 

vice-chairman of Zee Telefilms, sat beside her and kept on smiling.



Hitting out at broadcasters for being responsible for "frequent hikes in 

rates and not the cable operator", Sharma said confusion regarding DTH has 

been spread by some broadcasters on CAS as they are preparing for an 

alternate mode of delivery, direct-to-home (DTH) that has the potential of 

finishing off the last mile operator totally.



And in an action that had a symbolic touch to it, cable trade representatives gathered at Delhi's Intercontinental hotel (where the announcement was made) had a cake ready - the icing on the top of course being the "consumer-friendly" price break-up.



Sharma also asserted that set top boxes would get sold in the market if the content on television channels was good enough.



The official statement released on the occasion by the MSOs urged the 

government to control pay channel broadcasters by "fixing price limits for 

them too and making any violation of this policy a cognizable offence as has 

been done in case of cable operators."



The MSOs have also asked the government to strictly implement the programming and advertising codes in respect of all broadcasters who have 

shown no regard for any government policies. "All their programmes and advertisements violate the rules blatantly by showing women in bad light, 

liquor ads, surrogate ads for alcohol and cigarettes and obscene programmes 

and advertisements. Unless, the government takes strict criminal action 

against these erring broadcasters, they will keep on diluting the social 

norms of the country and fleece our public with their high prices," the MSOs 

said, taking a high moral ground. Of course conveniently overlooking the smut that is shown on home video channels by cable operators at times.



Pointing out that broadcasters have not yet declared their individual channel prices to harass the public so that it pressurizes the government to delay implementation of CAS, the statement from the cable fraternity said that the government "should make strict rules and regulations to discipline the broadcasters and curb their monopolies."



The operators also feel that it is because of them that a massive Rs 60 billion worth of industry for mass infotainment took birth in the country 12 year ago. Today there are more than 70,000 cable operators engaged in providing cable TV services to 44 million households employing 1.5 million people.

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