Zee ups CAS ante with STB schemes

NEW DELHI: Zee Telefilms has set the cat amongst the pigeons by taking its set-top-boxes-for- rent scheme a step further. It asserts multiple TV homes consumers may stand to gain if more than one box is ordered.

Zee's assertion came even as the Indian government on Tuesday said that another round of talks needed to be held with the stakeholders of the industry on conditional access system, increasingly becoming a political hot potato,

Speaking to today Zee Tele additional vice-chairman Jawahar Goel said, "We are looking at ways as to give monetary benefit to those cable consumers who have more than one TV set at home and, subsequently, order for several set-top boxes."

According to Goel, who also heads Zee Tele's cable arm Siti Cable, through which the headend in the sky project for CAS is being implemented, "If a consumer rents or buys more than one box, then we would offer him incentives whereby the second box would come cheaper."

Goel further went on to add that vendors of the boxes that would be needed in a post-CAS regime and MSOs like Siti Cable are also likely to negotiate with broadcasters to offer pay channels at a comparatively cheaper rate for such multiple TV and STB homes.

"We at Siti cable may initiate a dialogue with broadcasters that for multiple STB homes, every additional box would come cheap and subsequently the pay channels' rates also can be negotiated (as and when the pay channels come up with individual pricing) for such homes," Goel said, adding that once CAS gets going market forces would force industry stakeholders to come up with various schemes to lure customers.

Siti cable has already announced two rental schemes for digital STBs for consumers.


With the CAS mired in controversy, India's information and broadcasting ministry said on Tuesday it will hold another round of discussions with all stakeholders to clear any apprehensions about the system.

"What is happening today is dislocation... a lot of things are being said about CAS without the system being understood. What we need to do is call another meeting of all stakeholders of CAS --- cable operators, broadcasters, consumer groups, etc --- and clarify matters," information and broadcasting ministry secretary Pawan Chopra was quoted as saying in a Press Trust of India (PTI) report.

Asked whether the rollout of CAS will be on schedule on 14 July 14, Chopra declined to comment. He also did not specify if CAS would be implemented in a single metro to begin with.

According to the report, Chopra said consumers stand to gain from CAS, since they will get far greater number of free-to-air channels under the CAS regime than are being received at present.

"With CAS, consumers will be in effect paying Rs 72 for a whole host of channels.....I believe a number of pay channels will go FTA. Majority of a channel's revenue is from advertising and not subscription based.....consumers have nothing to fear," the I&B secretary was quoted as saying.

Chopra said the mass media market was becoming oligopolistic with some very large corporations controlling the market. "How far should this trend go? We need to examine this issue," he added.


Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit today dashed off a letter to Union information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shanker Prasad opposing the move for CAS as a "harsh measure" and advocating its review.

Citing her government's interactions with various citizen groups in Delhi, Dikshit said the Centre's move to be implemented in four metros from 14 July has raised apprehensions that "consumers' interests may not be protected", sources in the city government told PTI.

"The mandatory payment for the new technology equipment (set-top box) ranging between Rs 4,000-8,000 is too exorbitant for middle and lower class viewers," she was quoted as saying.

"Unfortunately, in the name of widening subscribers' choice, a new financial burden has been put on the hapless subscriber," she said, adding "an additional investment along with increase in cost of pay channels is a harsh measure for the average viewer in this city."

Conveying the "concern" of her government on the matter, the chief minister asked the centre to "examine in more detail" the implications of the CAS for cable TV viewers.

"A more easily payable scheme with clear advantages, easily comprehensible to the consumer would be a better option," Dikshit said.

She sought regulation of the expanding cable industry, contending that feedback from Delhi's resident welfare associations showed how the people are at the mercy of the cable operators and their arbitrary price increases.

"The quality of service at this end has to improve. It is this monopoly and indiscipline that has to be addressed," she said.

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