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Dec 01, 2012 09:45 AM IST | Source:

Cable TV digitisation: A win-win situation for consumers?

Past the cable TV digitisation deadline, the conversion rate still isnt 100 percent and many consumers are facing a blackout. We spoke to key stakeholders, representative from DTH and cable operators as well as with consumers, to find out the present scenario.....

Go digital or go blank is the tagline of the aggressive advertisement drive undertaken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) in a bid to urge people to switch over from analogue to digital TV. The first phase of the digitisation drive included the four metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Chennai. The deadline set was October 31 and as expected, there was last minute scrambling with certain stakeholders requesting for an extension. While Chennai was granted a breather as the high court extended the deadline for a few days, the other metros had to tow the line. Earlier, we had reported about the problems that plagued the digitisation drive, where the lack of awareness among the consumers, mismanagement and the issue of the consumer being charged arbitrarily for the set-top boxes (STBs) by the local cable operators came to the fore. Now past the deadline, the conversion rate still isn’t 100 percent, with many consumers facing blackout. While those who have embraced the digital medium are happy with the bump in the picture quality, they are clearly expecting more. With digital cable TV, the field is now wide open, with both the cable operators as well as the DTH operators trying to lure the consumers. We spoke to key stakeholders, representative from DTH and cable operators as well as with consumers, to find out the present scenario.  Delay in STB installation and deadline extensionThe original deadline for the four metros to switch over to cable TV digitisation was July 1, 2012, which got extended to October 31, 2012. Anil Parab, head of the MCOA and Shiv Sena Member of Legislative Council, has been asking for further extension up to December 31, 2012. Parab firmly states that they aren’t opposing digitisation, but need some more time to install STBs and sort out other issues. He says, "The penetration of STBs isn’t complete yet and round 4-5 lakh households could be facing a TV blackout. There is a shortage of set-top boxes, as they are not built here and are procured from China. It’s not easy to make set-top boxes available in several lakhs of house within stipulated period of time. Also, a person can fix roughly 20 to 25 boxes per day. Besides this some SOs haven’t settled their revenue sharing issues, like what is the role of a Multi System Operator (MSO), distributor and so on. All this is yet to be decided.” He also points out the fact that there are many families that just cannot afford to pay the entire amount in one stroke.  On the other hand, some cable operators seem to be ready with the switchover with almost all their customers owning a set-top box. One such cable operator is WinCable. Ramesh, PRO, WinCable says, “99 percent of our customer base have been provided with set-top box. Our areas include Khar, Bandra and Santacruz. We do not offer any packages or additional benefits, the rate is the same we charged for cable TV that is Rs. 300 per month. The installation charges are 1200.”

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