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Cable subscription collection sees 80% drop due to COVID-19

Cable operators have not been able to go and collect payments owing to lockdown

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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

MUMBAI: Cable operators have been facing problems in the collection of subscription fees since the third week of March as restrictions on social distancing started. Moreover, the countrywide lockdown has caused them more distress. Subscription collection of the operators from customers has fallen down, as Maharashtra Cable Operators’ Foundation (MCOF) stated. 

“After the ministry of information and broadcasting permitted cable TV as an essential service, cable operators have been able to get their limited staff to attend to network-related issues. With no public transport, workers staying at faraway locations have not been able to attend,” it stated.

“Subscription collection from customers has come down drastically as many societies and colonies have imposed restrictions on any entry into their complexes,” it added.

MCOF mentioned that cable operators have to make payments to their respective MSOs upfront if they wish to activate any channel/package. But all MSOs get almost 30 to 60 days’ credit before they make any payment to the broadcasters. This is mainly due to the fact that MSOs have to generate monthly usage reports for the month, based on which the broadcasters will raise their invoices. These broadcaster invoices will then be processed by respective MSO accounts teams and payments made. 

Against this backdrop, various cable associations have appealed to TRAI, MIB, and respective MSOs to either adopt post-paid services for April or to issue credit facilities to cable operators who are unable to collect.

The AIDCF (All India Digital Cable Federation), the body of MSOs, has decided to keep only the mandatory channels of Doordarshan active for any STB which is not renewed in April. 

It stated that cable operators are not financially strong to fund the MSOs and activate channels, especially when collections have dropped by 80 per cent or more. 

Cable associations have advised cable operators the following: 

·   Cable operators should push customers to pay online using NEFT/UPI/wallets/credit or debit cards and activate services for those who have paid.

·    For those customers who do not pay online, cable operators can downgrade them to Free To Air Channel (FTA) Packs, since most viewing is happening on news channels (most of which are FTA channels) and DD providing re-runs of its popular serials at nil cost. Pay broadcasters have run out of fresh programming and all sporting activities having come to a halt, these can be activated for customers who make payments to cable operators. 

·   Cable operators are free to levy a convenience fee of up to Rs 30/- per month from a customer to renew the services without any upfront payment. Customers can opt for this by calling/messaging their respective cable networks and confirming their willingness to pay the same.

“In over 25 to 30 years of this business, cable networks have gone through various natural calamities but we have always ensured that the subscribers get near-uninterrupted services. We request customers to stand by their respective cable operators as a mark of solidarity by using any online method of convenience to pay their cable operators or speak to their cable operator and exercise their best option,” the federation urged. 

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