Cable TV

Three big MSOs work towards common pricing

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MUMBAI: The three big multi-system operators (MSOs) - Siticable, Hathway Cable & Datacom and Incablenet - are working on a common pricing on their digital cable TV service to make their offerings consumer friendly.

On the digital set-top boxes (STBs), they are planning to offer a rental scheme of Re 1 a day at a refundable security deposit of Rs 999 once conditional access system (CAS) comes into place. Even without buying STBs, consumers can, thus, shift to digital cable by paying a nominal monthly rent.

"The understanding among the three MSOs is to offer a common pricing to our subscribers so that there is no confusion in the market. We will be offering a rental plan of Re 1 a day. We also plan to extend this to our service packages as well," says IndusInd Media & Communications Ltd (IMCL) director Ravi Mansukhani.

Admits Hathway Cable & Datacom CEO K Jayaraman, "We have decided to work together. Unless we cooperate, the roll out of CAS won't be smooth as there are forces working against it."

The three MSOs will focus on servicing their respective customers rather than be engaged in competition amongst themselves. Though Hathway and Siticable operators are in fight over certain territories in Delhi, these issues are expected to be sorted out.

The MSOs will also try to unite their distributors and last mile operators (LMOs), but margins across the value chain will be decided only after broadcasters work out commercial agreements with them. They have already written to broadcasters and are awaiting their responses.

The MSOs are making concerted efforts to clear out certain common perceptions on CAS like it not being consumer friendly. "The Bill was not enacted for the MSOs but for the consumers. The boxes will be available on rental schemes and the monthly subscription fees will fall as consumers can select the channels they want to pay for. Under the current system, the prices are artificially controlled and the consumer is subsidised," Siticable CEO Jagjit Kohli said, while addressing a press conference today in Mumbai.

Commenting on the competition from direct-to-home (DTH), Kohli said cable had the advantage of packaging channels according to local demand. "DTH has the constraint of transponder space while cable can offer more channels," he said.

Meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has called for a meeting at Delhi on Monday with the MSOs and the distributors to discuss on issues over CAS.

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