Cable TV
Report on Shemaroo

MCOF’s Prabhu sounds the alarm for cable TV fraternity

The pandemic led to a loss of subscribers

KOLKATA: Although linear television remains the primary mode of viewing for most Indian households, cableTV  operators still face numerous challenges – what the rapid uptake of OTT services and the inflexible pricing regulations set by the regulator. And the situation is not getting any better for the tribe, says Maharashtra Cable Operators Foundation (MCOF) president Arvind Prabhu.

He claims that matters took a grim turn with Covid2019 causing a 25-30 per cent drop in subscribers for the cable TV trade operators in the first four months of the crisis,

mainly due to lack of fresh TV content, labour migration and the closure of commercial establishments. He further projects that only 5-10 per cent of these subscribers might come back.

While a lot the of users had moved to OTT during the beginning of the pandemic, Prabhu says there are fewer chances of them returning  to TV as the platforms are already offering linear TV content, streaming live sports events.

Read more news on MCOF

How far is normalcy?

There had been a challenge at the operational level too with the onset of this pandemic. However, the situation is normalising inch by inch, thanks to the stage by stage unlocks, and it is comparatively easier at this moment, says Prabhu. However, 60-65 per cent of workers are not coming to offices regularly.

Given that cable TV is an essential service, the government should have looked at insurance for its staff, insists Prabhu. Moreover, vendor supplies have also slowed down. The scene is a little different in rural areas, where manpower is available but getting equipment is an issue. Hence, it would take another month or so to reach normalcy, he expresses.

Due to restrictions in movement, the MSOs have been demanding online payments. While others claim that 70-80 per cent of subscribers have shipped out,  Prabhu dismisses these figures. He says it is the subscribers of the MSOs that is the cable TV operators themselves who have moved to digital payments; not the end subscribers. So far, cable TV operators have been collecting payments traditionally from 50-60 per cent of their subscriber bases.

What are the long-term challenges?

Putting aside the challenges imposed by Covid2019, cable TV operators have been in distress for a while now. With the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) introducing a cap on NCF under NTO 2.0, their worries have only increased. Prabhu claims that TRAI did not take into consideration the suggestions that were given following the NTO consultation paper. He goes on to add that MSOs manipulated NTO 1.0 and it failed to bring end-to-end transparency.

However, the MCOF president acknowledges that former TRAI chairman RS Sharma did his best to help small cable TV operators. “If the new chairman (PD Vaghela) does not quickly help us to revive the overall economic situation, we will be in dire straits. What we ask of the new chairman is to look at all the correspondence sent by cable TV operator associations. He will immediately realise that there has been a serious breach of regulations,” says Prabhu, and he urgesVaghela to call a meeting of all stakeholders at the earliest so they can figure out a solution together.

Way to a sustainable future:

Prabhubelieves that there is a way for cable TV operators to stem the loss of subscribers to OTTs: provide broadband services as that would help them to survive in a changing ecosystem, and integrate the billing for those with cable TV. He also mentions that many operators have already started offering android boxes. On the cable TV side, operators are trying to reduce subscriber loss with long-term packages. Hence, they have requested MSOs to offer some discounts on those.

Going forward, cable TV operators who focus on futuristic services like broadband and hybrid boxes will be able to sustain themselves, says Prabhu. He is optimistic that the new boxes will go beyond urban areas and see good traction in tier II, tier III cities. While these boxes are expensive at the moment, the cost is predicted to come down once demand picks up, leading to increased adoption in rural areas too. Prabhu also highlights that the industry needs government intervention, such as providing loans to the last mile players for investing in new technology.

But broadband and hybrid boxes are not a sure-shot road to success. With the entry of deep-pocketed players in the segment, operators are worried about not having a level playing field. “It is important to find out how to control the big brother coming and taking away everybody’s job. Even if it takes over everything, there should be some alternative modes for us,” says Prabhu.

Need of the hour:

Alongside the long-term strategies, the operators are facing short-term issues as well. “First and foremost, there should be a signing of model interconnect agreements. Nobody has signed a model interconnect agreement, whatever was signed was two-three years ago. The ownership of a set-top box needs to be defined. If a consumer is buying then it is his property; if a cable operator is buying to give it to consumers it belongs to him.; if it is being rented or leased, then it is owned by MSOs. Clarity on that is needed,” he states.

Latest Reads
Cable operators take steps to ease vaccination process for staff

Despite the imminent health risks, the cable industry employees have continued to work on the frontlines all through the pandemic. Now with vaccination drives in full swing across the country, leading cable operators, too, are taking a step ahead and getting their employees inoculated.

Cable TV Local Cable Operators
Make in India push for set-top boxes face challenges

Last year it made headlines when large DTH players including Tata Sky, Dish TV announced their decision to move manufacturing of a significant portion of set-top boxes (STBs) in India. The announcements were in line with the government’s renewed push for Make in India.

Cable TV Local Cable Operators
Cable industry veteran Lt Col VC Khare passes away

KOLKATA: Cable TV expert, retired Lt.Col VC Khare has passed away. He contributed to the cable TV industry in India at different roles for nearly three decades. He was a member of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) where he played a significant role in formulating 8 BIS Specification for cable TV...

Cable TV People
SCTE India announces its new executive board for the term 2021-2024

New Delhi: The Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers (SCTE), India has appointed NXTDIGITAL Limited MD and CEO, Vynsley Fernandes as the honorary chairman, Sandeep Bhargava as the president, and Rahul Nehra as the national secretary. The announcement was made at the recently held annual...

Cable TV People
GTPL KCBPL partner with UKIO, spread smiles

GTPL KCBPL has partnered with UKIO to spread smiles during these difficult times and expand their product offering. UKIO is a personalised messaging platform that allows users to share video call messages with their loved ones via their favourite celebrity icons.

Cable TV Local Cable Operators
NXTDigital turns around its business with Rs 13.66 crore profit in Q4

KOLKATA: NXTDigital has turned its business profitable by raking in Rs 13.66 crore profit after tax (PAT) for the fourth quarter. The company has reported Rs 277.96 crore consolidated revenue for the quarter. It posted Rs 0.32 crore PAT in the previous quarter and a loss after tax of Rs 43.43 crore...

Cable TV Multi System Operators
GTPL Hathway earmarks Rs 400 crore capex for FY22

Pan India multi-system operator (MSO) GTPL Hathway is increasing its capex projection for FY22 to Rs 400 crore, compared to Rs 335 crore it invested in FY21, a top executive revealed in an investors call.

Cable TV Local Cable Operators
NXTDIGITAL & Siti Networks ink industry-first pact for infra sharing

NEW DELHI: Hinduja Group's Headend-in-the-Sky (HITS) platform NXTDIGITAL and multi-system operator (MSO) Siti Networks have inked a first-ever infrastructure sharing agreement in the MSO space in the country. The move, the first of its kind, will have two conventional competitors share...

Cable TV Multi System Operators
Reliance to sell 11.61 per cent stake in Hathway

Reliance Industries is preparing to sell 11.61 per cent of its stake in Hathway Cable & Datacom to comply with SEBI’s minimum public holding norms. Through offers for sale (OFS), Reliance plans to offload Hathway shares worth Rs 442 crore, bringing down its holding in the cable company to 75...

Cable TV Local Cable Operators

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required