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Gujarat a potent market for DAS Phases III & IV

VADODARA: Multi-system operators (MSOs) have made rapid strides in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state. This has been possible because they worked along with the local cable operators (LCOs).

Speaking at a panel during the Vadodara leg of TelevisionPost.com’s digital initiative GroundPost, GTPL COO Shaji Mathews said that when digitisation was announced five years back, there was a lot of confusion in the market. “Many were apprehensive if the MSOs and LCOs would be able to digitise as they never worked together. Nonetheless, with the approach of the deadline, they started working as a team. While the MSOs arranged the STBs, conditional access system, and installed headends, LCOs put all their efforts into installing the STBs in consumers’ homes.”

Comparing the digitisation drive with a five-match cricket series, Mathews said that the cable industry had won the first match of the series. “The second match involves CAF/KYC while the third is packaging. The fourth is broadband and HD. The final match will be to get back our customers from DTH. We need to win this series by winning all the matches,” he said.

According to the MSOs, Gujarat is conducive to digitisation. People have learnt from the first two phases and started voluntary digitisation in Phases III and IV.

Panel-1-barodara-insidesty

IndusInd Media & Communications’ Jayesh Pandya said, “We have taken digitisation very positively. I think technology and transparency are important for its success. There has to be transparency between MSOs and LCOs. LCOs in Phases III and IV are asking for digital signals. It is taking some time owing to technological challenges.”

DEN Networks’ Sarabjit Singh Saini added that LCOs in Gujarat understood the business. “There is no threat to their business. It was quite the contrary in the analogue days. Considering everything, I believe Phases III and IV will be much more successful,” he said.

IndiaCast’s Rajib Mukherjee said that Gujarat learnt from the Phase I experience. “After the seeding of STBs, the next stage involved packaging. Only in the last couple of months did packaging take off in Gujarat. This will greatly level the competition with DTH.”

Mukherjee added that the consumer today has a lot of choice and cable is the best medium to provide service to the consumer. “As soon as Phase III and IV operators understand this, people will start getting themselves converted much before the deadline.”

Talking about content deals, he said that Indicast was one of the only distribution companies that did 95 per cent of its deals on a cost-per-subscriber (CPS) basis. “We don’t do bulk deals as it lacks clarity. Secondly, we provided marketing support for digitisation. As digitisation was a first-time exercise, MSOs are complaining about declining carriage. However, in a digitised universe, money should also come from subscription.”

He added that in Phases III and IV the company would continue to do CPS deals. Depending on the market, it would also support the MSOs so that they could lend their helping hand to the LCOs.

Talking about GTPL’s efforts, Mathews added that the company had extended full support to customer service. “We have given spare set-top boxes to operators for quick replacements in case of warranty claims. Besides, we have a service centre, which we plan to expand,” he said.

Pre-paid model

When asked about the possibility of a pre-paid model in cable, Saini answered in the affirmative. “Incable has already started the pre-paid model. In an indirect way, GTPL and DEN also follow the model by giving some discounts on the payment amount. But we are now making it very clear that advance payment is pre-paid payment and current month’s payment is post-paid.”

Pandya said, “We are experimenting with the pre-paid model for one package. I think its implementation will take some time.”

Mathews added that all a la carte channels are available only on pre-paid. “Considering the government regulations, it seems that pre-paid is a better option. People will gradually go for this option as it is easier.”

Stating that the pre-paid model is for operators and not for consumers, Saini added, “Financially strong operators will make use of the pre-paid model to safeguard their customers.”

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