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MSOs made the mistake of putting pre-activated STBs: TRAI’s Kesarwani

HISAR: While issues like billing and packaging still remaining unaddressed in DAS Phase I and II cities, the third and fourth phases will present an opportunity for the multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) to work together and plan, feels the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) deputy advisor GS Kesarwani.

Addressing a gathering of over 200 LCOs, MSOs and broadcast industry professionals at the Hisar edition of TelevisionPost.com’s on-ground initiative GroundPost, Kesarwani said that in Phases I and II of digitisation, the MSOs made the mistake of putting pre-activated set-top boxes (STBs) and thus collection was a problem.

He called on the MSOs to go for voluntary digitisation, get the forms filled in and let the customer choose. “Once the consumer makes their choice, you can bill them accordingly. Another important thing is to make an agreement with your trade partner. So if an MSO gives a signal to an LCO without an agreement, it is illegal,” he said.

GS-kesarwani-trai-coverThe most important thing is to respect the choice of the consumer, he elaborated. “MSOs need to make their consumers aware of the packages and offerings, and provide them with the customer application form. This should be done before the installation of the STB.”

As there is some time, MSOs and LCOs should look at the business with a long-term vision. “You need to plan your business for the long term. If you have the right infrastructure and business plan, then in future you can also provide new value-added services,” Kesarwani said.

Most of the cities in Haryana fall within Phases III and IV, which Kesarwani said, should be seen as an opportunity. “You can plan your business now and make a proper agreement. Build your infrastructure based on what you want to offer to the consumer and plan accordingly.”

Talking about the benefits of digitisation, he said that around 500–1,000 channels can be carried easily after digitisation. In addition, one can choose a pack of their liking, unlike in the analogue era where only LCOs provided the packs.

He said that while the consumer can select and get billed as per their choice, the large number of channels and services will allow MSOs to increase the average revenue per user (ARPU). Besides, the second- and third-TV homes will be captured and they, too, will start paying.

Kesarwani cautioned that the times and technology are changing, and television comes not only via cable, but also via DTH and the internet. “So if you give the consumer a bevy of services, they will certainly be yours. Otherwise, he won’t take time to shift to alternative platforms.”

Talking about the benefit for the broadcasters, he said that once the subscriber management system (SMS) gets in place, broadcasters will also come to see how many viewers are tuning in to their channels.

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