G Subramaniam, CFO, Hathway explains to CNBC-TV18 that the number of subscribers yet to shift to digital cable-TV ahead of the deadline is on the increase. However, he adds that the number of subscribers crossing over to the digital will be considerable as the deadline nears.
Below is an edited transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18.
Q: What kind of response have you received from subscribers whose TV channels you allegedly blacked-out in various suburbs to encourage them to shift digital cable TV? Are you getting more enquiries?
A: Apart from blacking-out of channels, there has also been adequate publicity in the newspapers and television channels through articles, programmes and advertisements. So I think the sense of awareness is building up. It is always a challenge in a country like ours to quickly spread the message.
Q: With just about 12-13 days left for the deadline, what percentage of your current subscriber-base is yet to convert to digital?
A: I do not have the data with me, but there is a very substantial number of subscribers in Mumbai yet to shift to digital and though Delhi lags behind, we expect to be able to address the problem.
Q: What about Delhi and Chennai where according to recent data, around 60 percent of subscribers are yet to convert to digital?
A: There has been a significant improvement in the last fortnight in Delhi where the portion of subscribers yet to shift to the digital format was as low as 30-33 percent. We would have been happier if the shift was faster, but with increased publicity of imminent digitisation, we expect that there will be a last-minute catch up. I am not aware of Chennai, but I do not see any major challenge in Delhi and Mumbai.
Q: What happens on October 31 or November 1, if the channel goes black do you expect a bulk of subscribers to subscribe on that day, would Q3 therefore look excellent for you?
A: I think it will be premature to assume that Q3 would be smooth. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve over the next couple of months as the whole industry gradually settles down to this new regime. But certainly thereafter, we should be able to see the benefits of digitization and full declaration of subscriber-base on the results.
Q: The quality of service certainly dwindles when you have to cater to so many more subscribers with an advanced technology. Do you find irate consumers shifting away to DTH?
A: I do not think so. In fact, it is not a particularly big challenge because the quality of service is a function of bandwidth and we are actually creating additional bandwidth in the digital format. So, the quality of service will actually improve dramatically.
Q: You would have heard about the package from Dish TV with respect to free-to-air channels. Are the multi-system operators (MSOs) and the cable operators considering any such package?
A: No. I do not believe that it is necessary for us to respond to that price package at this point of time and we will have to see how the market responds.