CAS REVIEW: MSOs claim adequate STB stocks, admit consumer order slowdown

 NEW DELHI: Multi-System Operators have told the sector regulator that there is no shortage of STBs anywhere in the country, but admit that there has been a slow-down of consumer orders, for which the MSOs themselves and broadcasters need to make various changes in their strategies.

"None of the players, neither the cable operators, nor the broadcasters, not even us, have been reading the consumers' minds, and we better take care of that from now," a senior official of one MSO told indiantelevision.com today.

Meanwhile, although these are "early days", the trend that has emerged as a result of data analysis of customer choices as expressed in the forms submitted (for those who have opted for Cas in Delhi and Mumbai) "is bound to create major upsets in the market, especially in how the media buyers look at where to put their monies," the official said.

This was in the offing since the early days of Cas implementation, and the announcement could cause a mild to heavy temblor in the market.

Meanwhile, cable operators here reported also that in some pockets people were not taking STBs because of regional preferences. In the predominantly Bengali neighbourhood of Chittaranjan Park, a fairly posh colony, many have stayed with the Bengali FTAs and decide to hang on to whatever rest they are getting in the FTA basic tier package (Rs 77, plus taxes).

Likewise, in the Nepali dominated Vasant Gaon area and for people in RK Puram, where there is a predominance of South Indians from various states, it has been noted that since their most popular regional channels are FTAs, they have stayed away from STBs, Roop Sharma, president of Cable Operators Federation of India told this correspondent.

None of the three MSOs approached in Delhi by this correspondent so far have divulged the clear analysis, saying that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has asked for these and they can reveal the data only after reporting to it.

But it is known by now that most of those who have taken the STBs have opted for a la carte and not packages or bouquets. "This clearly shows that the Indian customer knows its mind far better than we had anticipated," sources admitted.

CUSTOMERS IGNORED: In the soul searching process, media experts are now saying that the slowdown has been because of various reasons, primarily ignoring the customer.

First, the DTH players promised to supply boxes and dishes but could not do so on time. In the first instance, they gave dishes but not the STBs. Then, they gave prepaid boxes, so when the month was over, the streaming was disconnected. Then, people started comparing that this never used to happen with the "cablewallahs", who would wait till you paid and not disconnect.

In fact, the "facelessness" of the DTH players, who operate through the BPOs, have been one reason for people in chunks getting put off by them, though it is a fact that DTH players have scored heavily in the bordering areas of Delhi proper by giving attractive prices to housing colonies.

At the same time, MSOs admit that they too had failed to gear up to the search in the first 14 or 20 days of Cas implementation. "The packages that we gave did not meet the needs of the consumer," said one MSO spokesperson.

"We also did not make a clear statement on what package a cable home having two or more TV sets would get as discount, and no clear policy emerged in the beginning, and the packages were arbitrarily decided by us," he added.

Analysis and feedback from ground level fitters from cable operators show that due to this, most families set a budget for themselves as per their pockets, and decided to take channels they wanted, which is why they chose a la carte.

This has caused major changes in the viewership patterns, and a lot of "myths" of TRP supremacy claimed by channels could come for a shake up, media experts aver.

FENCESITTERS APLENTY: Data analysis shows that a lot of people are sitting on the fence, so far as fresh demand for STBs is concerned.

As reported by indiantelevision.com earlier, MSOs say that there could be some kind of pace picking up with the World Cup cricket coming up, but they hold that much more than a global sporting event has to be looked into for the "second phase of Cas rollout" to be successful.

MSOs have told broadcasters to tie-up with them to push for boxes. They have made several proposals so far on this with the major broadcasters.

Though a recent seminar in Mumbai generally held that availability of STBs would be crucial for success of Cas and would rake in the moolah for all the players, reports emanating suggest that there is no shortage of boxes.

All three MSOs, WWIL, Hathway as well as Incablenet have ample number of boxes, "which we have informed Trai about".

"We have told Trai that there is an urgent need for MSOs and broadcasters to tie up and create packages that are of substance to the consumers, which will be in their own best interest," the official said.

As of now, however, there is no such consensus emerging on a market that is there for the taking.

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