Improper implentation of CAS to hit Indian TV producers

MUMBAI: While SARS is leading to a cancellation of trade gatherings in Singapore, in India the TV production community and Bollywood are going to be hit by CAS. Reason: leading general entertainment and pay TV broadcasters, led by Star TV have communicated to their TV production and film distribution partners that they have to prepare for a scenario wherein their proudction budgets will be slashed by half after 15 July, the government deadline for the implementation of conditional access in the four metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. That is if CAS is not implemented properly and the channels are blacked out in a large section of the six million TV homes in the metros.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation has been putting forth its viewpoint to the CAS task force and the information and broadcasting ministry that it would be better if CAS is implemented in a planned manner, taking a city - instead of four as earlier envisaged - at a time. And a neighbourhood at a time in each city. The I&B ministry has been insisting that the rollout should be in four cities as has been mandated earlier by the CAS amendment.

"It's better if the rollout is done in a systematic manner," says a senior broadcast executive. "At this moment we are running short on time. It's quite possible that cable operators may not be able to provide enough boxes to their subscribers. If that proves a reality then the reach of our channels will drop in these four important television ratings cities. It's quite likely then that advertisers may ask for a drop in ad rates. At lower air time rates we definitely will not be able to support the budget agreements that we have signed with TV proudcers. We have therefore decided to inform our production partners much in advance that if CAS is not implemented right, we will be cutting their budgets. We don't want any litigation on account of this after 14 July. "

Apparently, the broadcasters have also explained to Bollywood's producers and distributors that film acquisition deals are going to less lucrative in a poorly implemented CAS environment. "Rs 5 crore as rights to telecast a movie are going to be a thing of the past in a poor CAS enviroment. The deals could be as low as 10 per cent of what used to be paid earlier," says the executive.

Now, unless a resolution to the CAS issue is found, and quickly, the TV production community and Bollywood's producers could also be well end up hurting where it hurts the most: their pockets.

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