BBC World to go pay from mid-June; price undecided

MUMBAI: BBC World is going pay. It will encrypt its feed to South Asia, beaming off PanAmSat10 satellite, from 15 June.

BBC World director of distribution and business development Jeff Hazell confirmed to the plans to go pay, but refused to divulge the rate that will be charged from the cable ops.

“We do not have a direct relationship with the consumer. How the cable operators choose to package and bundle the price for the service is entirely up to them,” Hazell said.

However, information collated from cable ops in Delhi and Mumbai reveals that BBC World has indicated a price of Rs 5.50 to its distribution dealers. The price might ultimately settle somewhere between Rs 4.50 Rs 5.50, a cable operator in Delhi opined.

The boxes will be made available to key MSOs, cable operators and hoteliers in South Asia to facilitate the move to an encrypted mode, though a section of cable ops in Delhi said it is yet to hear from BBC World on its plans to go pay.

“As a commercial channel, the transition from free-to-air to a subscription model is a natural progression for BBC World in South Asia. This change is in response to the dynamic and rapidly expanding cable TV and DTH satellite market across the region,” BBC World regional director of distribution and business development, Europe, Middle-East & South Asia Gerry Ritchie said.

Amongst the 25-odd news channels, both at the national and regional level, only a handful are pay channels in the real sense. The news channel that are pay include Zee News, NDTV 24X7, NDTV Profit, CNBCTV18 and Times Now.

BBC World South Asia head of distribution and business development Amit Upadhayay feels that his team of 10 professionals are ready for the new challenge. But what about carriage fee?

According to Upadhayay, “The decision to go pay was taken after close interaction with cable operators, distributors and MSOs. We have not been paying carriage fee till date and people in the market understand that. We want to partner with cable operators and work closely with them to have a mutually benefit relationship.”

Pointing out that the Indian distribution market is emerging as a substantial subscription market for both Indian and international broadcasters, Upadhayay said response from distributors have been

“They feel the channel is a strong brand as it serves an important and influential audience across the region,” he added.

BBC World is presently available to 15 million Indian households and 60,000 hotel rooms across the country. The channel’s advertising sales did well in 2005.

The change in the status of BBC World will be communicated through the channel’s website on-screen scroll, which should start running in a few days time.

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