Cable TV

Cable industry would do the trick: Hathway's Neeraj Bhatia

MUMBAI: The Rajan Raheja owned multi-system operator (MSO) Hathway Cable and Datacom, in which Star India holds 26 per cent equity stake, has announced that it is ready to meet the 14 July CAS deadline.

The company officials, today, expressed full confidence that the Indian cable trade is well-equipped to do justice to the implementation of CAS - with the first phase starting from 14 July 2003.

While addressing an informal press meet in Mumbai, Hathway Cable and Datacom vice-president Neeraj Bhatia claimed: "Indian cable operators have this amazing knack of entrepreneurship. We feel that the cable trade is well-equipped to convert customers. History will repeat itself and they will perform the same miracles that they did in the early 1990s."

According to Bhatia: " Last time around, they (the cable ops) did it without training or adequate support. This time, we shall support them with training in the form of seminars and workshops. Moreover, they have gained in experience and business acumen. They will do a much better job this time around."

Hathway is importing the STBs from abroad and all of them will conform to the BIS standards. In phase I, the boxes will be basic versions and will have certain inbuilt 

value-added features.

However, speaking on the pricing of the set top boxes, Bhatia felt: "It will be difficult to maintain the cost of the digital set-top box (STB) around the Rs 3,500 mark. The STB will attract a basic duty of 25 per cent with a CVD (countervailing duty) of 16 per cent and a SAD (special additional duty) of 4 per cent taking the total customs duty to 50.8 per cent. In addition, in Mumbai, the additional duties, including sales taxes, will take the levies to around 82.5 per cent. It is estimated that a digital box will cost around Rs 5,000 in a city like Mumbai."

"Again, it depends on volumes. If volumes are high, we can look at a slightly lesser rate. But at present, it is difficult to get a fix on the volumes due to the uncertain prevailing conditions. Demand estimation is the most important aspect of the implementation process," Bhatia said, adding, several estimates are floating around but the exact number will be clear once the cable operators start visiting households and collect on-ground feedback.

Bhatia also added that Hathway will also be ready to buy back boxes at a subsidised rate.

Bhatia referred to some reports from TAM India and IMRB which have indicated that the total number of boxes required will be 6.7 million in the four metros (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai). He clarified: "There may be some doubts raised on this number as adjoining areas to the four metros - like Thane and Navi Mumbai near Mumbai; Gurgaon and NOIDA on the outskirts of Delhi; and Ambatur near Chennai - have not yet included in the first phase of rollout."

Bhatia also said that industry reports indicated that that Kolkata and Chennai might require relatively lesser boxes because the FTA channels (Doordarshan and Eenadu TV) 'seemed' to be more popular amongst the viewers of television in those cities vis-a-vis Mumbai and Delhi.

Dwelling on commissions to be given to the cable operators, Bhatia stated: "The commissions will be determined in close consultations amongst the broadcasters, MSOs and the cable operators. At Hathway, we are firm believers of the fact that each chain or link of the cable trade must get a fair share of the total revenues."

Also read:

Hathway ready to meet CAS deadline; invests Rs 120-150m per city

Future belongs to the consumer: Hathway's Neeraj Bhatia

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