Cable TV

Cable operators threaten not to pay MSOs for Udaya

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BANGALORE: The tussle between the cable operators, represented by the Karnataka State Cable TV operators Association (KSCOA) and its affiliates all over the State, and the Sun bouquet of Udaya- Udaya News and Ushe gets murkier by the day.

The MSOs have refused to blank out Udaya and the KSCOA has threatened not to pay MSOs for the Udaya bouquet (UB), if they didn't support them in blanking out UB. An MSO source says that only time will tell how successful this strategy would prove to be in forcing Udaya to take remedial action.

The KSCOA claims that majority of the State, except for Bangalore, has stopped transmitting UB. The broadcaster (Udaya), on the other hand, claims that more than 90 per cent of the State is connected and continuing the transmission. Udaya also claims that the KSCOA is using language issue to cover up the facts.

It was cable operators, who had approached Udaya to go pay, said an industry source, thinking that they would get to distribute the package and control things. However, their plans failed when Udaya bypassed the major operators in a number of districts and appointed non-cable operators as distributors.

Udaya VP Vijay Kumar points out, "Not a single decoder box has been supplied to a cable operator who has only free-to-air channels. At present, we have distributed more than 4,500 boxes, price of which is Rs 7,000 each. We expect 100 per cent connectivity by Friday and our signal is being transmitted across more than 90 per cent of the State."

However, telephonic enquiries from districts reveal unverified allegations of at least three cases where non-operators have been supplied with decoder boxes.

A few cable operators from the districts have switched on Udaya only after two to four days, because, they have the viewers needs to cater to. One operator in the southwest of Karnataka claimed that they'd switched on Udaya this evening after a two-day hiatus. Another in the Kannada heartland claims that they have started transmission to three talukas four days ago, because, the decoder boxes had been received by them only five days ago.

Before that a non-operator, who had been transmitting the signal in their region, has now stopped receiving the signal. This is an example of Udaya's strategy of pitting one against the other and making inroads into breaking the unity of the cable operators points out an industry source.

Vijay Kumar calls districts such as Shimoga, Hassan, Mandya, Chikmagulur trouble spots. Around seven to eight districts including the above mentioned form the core or the heart of region which has a predominantly Kannada speaking people in the State. In the south-west you have mixture of Coorgi and Tullu speaking people, in the west and north-west and north you have the Manglorians, the Konkani and the Marathi-speaking people, to the east lies the districts adjoining the erstwhile State of Andhra

Pradesh where Telugu is spoken by many.

It is only in the seven or eight central districts that Kannada is spoken by a majority of people, and where cable operators claim maximum penetration by Udaya. It is only here that the issue of the regional language channel turning to pay mode from free-to-air would be most significant, hence the protests were strongest in this region and hence the term trouble spots.

Udaya's content is mostly movies and there is less soap as compared to Eenadu Kannada or DD Kannada, and Udaya has movie rights of almost 70-80 per cent of the Kannada movies, claims an operator from the districts. The rural areas have very few good affordable cinema houses and for the village folk the cheapest and sometimes the only access to films is the cable TV.

Another grouse that most cable operators have voiced against Udaya is their distributors demand of more than 150 to 200 per cent declarations. "Not all persons who are connected to all the channels watch all of them, we cannot survive with a declaration figure of more than 50 per cent," claimed a cable operator from a district, adding that for different areas the percentage could differ for a cable operation to be viable. "CAS should be implemented, then we will know the real story. It is the broadcasters who are opposing and stalling it," he added. This is a common opinion among the cable operators and MSO fraternity.

"It is better to die once and for all than to perish a little at a time" said Ponacha, a spokesperson for the KSCOA, "We will not pay for the Udaya bouquet at all. Let the MSOs stop the signal, we will continue payment for the other existing pay channels, but not for any other channels that have been converted to pay mode recently or in the future. There has to be a limit to how much the consumer has to be burdened, at this rate, the consumer will end up paying the sky for all the channels irrespective of his needs."

"Let us see, the fate of our meeting with the deputy chief minister on August19 will govern our future course of action," he added.

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