Cable TV

Lockdown impact on cable operators: Drop in STB sale and collection from connections

77 per cent of MSOs expect revenue drop in FY21

MUMBAI: Despite higher viewership of linear television during the lockdown, the cable operators’ business in India has felt the heat of the Covid2019 pandemic. While sales of new set-top boxes and collection for existing connections witnessed a drop, customers down-traded packs. Due to these factors, especially in view of customers opting for cheaper packs, the multi-system operators (MSOs) expect a high double-digit decline in FY21 revenues.

According to a survey done by INTIN on 92 MSOs (six per cent of overall base) across India, 63 per cent of cable operators maintained or improved their performance during the lockdown, overcoming several circumstantial challenges. Consumers also seem to be more satisfied as the number of received complaints increased for only 26 per cent operators.

While many MSOs have stated during the period that they could not provide new connections due to restrictions, the survey points to their concerns. Sales of the new box dropped for 75 per cent of the operators. Moreover, the collection also dropped for 84 per cent of cable operators which could be attributed to the unwillingness for digital payment and the lack of infrastructure, coupled with the social distancing norms.

Consumer sentiment is not high across industries due to the current economic scenario. It has reflected in the TV distribution business also as 41 per cent of operators experienced consumers down-trading to cheaper packs. Only nine per cent of the operators have witnessed addition of channels. There was an increase in demand for news channels and movie channels along with cable TV channels, but sports, GECs and infotainment reported a drop in demand.

Owing to all the factors, 77 per cent of MSOs expect their revenues in 2020-21 to drop whereas 32 per cent expect this drop to be more than 25 per cent. However, 66 per cent also do not plan any drop in the pack prices. 

OTT threat

While Covid2019 has posed an unprecedented challenge for the MSOs, a larger – and long-term – challenge that is looming over them is the increasing consumer shift to over-the-top (OTT) platforms. Majority of cable operators (54 per cent) anticipate a negative impact of OTT on the cable TV business. However, some of the operators are already bringing change to their business model. For example, 25 per cent of cable operators have already launched their own OTTs. Fifty-seven per cent of operators are selling broadband service also with the hunger for data and higher bandwidth increasing across the country. But the statistics clearly indicate that a large number of MSOs are yet to upgrade their business models.

Amid this difficult scenario, the report also suggests some healthy practices, such as 100 per cent online payment, launch of targeted consumers offers, easy instalment payment methods, focusing on own content, including launch of OTT and pure cable channels to prevent the de-growth. 

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