I still feel our whole exercise of digitalising the cable TV networks is out of focus. Right from drafting the amended law to making various regulations and then implementing them, Government is only concerned that all pay channels must reach viewers and be paid by the subscribers whether they like or not. Once the process started, stringent deadlines, tougher than anywhere in the world were announced. Now ministry's objective seems to be to show complete success in their exercise in the first phase, come what may. It reduced the base line of Cable TV households than what it had been considering since January this year to show higher percentage of STB penetration. Not only this, they have reduced the number of analog TV households by DTH homes in the metros so that number of yet to be digitized cable homes becomes low.
So now with the new figures, supposed to be based on Census 2011, Mumbai has achieved 95%, Chennai 49%, Kolkata 67% and Delhi lags behind with 53% STB penetration. These are quite impressive figures considering that USA and UK took 10 years to achieve this penetration. If we believe these figures then the LCOs must get the complete credit because it is they who do the job of convincing the subscribers to spend money on STB and then pay much more to the pay channels. It is sad that they get the minimum revenue for this.
Another thing I just can’t understand that why is the Ministry trying to promote DTH? One Newspaper wrote that Ministry says that DTH is not costly. Now when the Ministry has made digital cable a costly affair, definitely they can say that DTH is cheaper. But question is, what do they get to promote a private business? By the way, in spite of Ministry promoting DTH, it is losing connections as per the TAM report and MPA report.
As the deadline is approaching, Ministry is getting jittery for the outcome after 31st October. Mamta Di in Kolkata has already said that there is no hurry to force the common man to buy STBs. Jayalalitha in Chennai has asked for time till March 2013 because her ARASU network in Chennai is not ready. Mumbai and Delhi, both ruled by the Congress are being pressurized in every way to show results. Outcome is that in Delhi, DCs and SDMs are ordering Police to chase the cable operators to hurry up with STB installation. I am told that one cable operator in walled city has offered Rs 50/- per STB to the beat constable to go with his team and force the subscriber to install the STB.
FDI has also been increased for the MSOs. Where will they use it if they get it, I wonder? Money for the STBs is being given by the LCOs in bulk which they collect from subscribers in due course of time. MSOs will never improve the last mile for the LCOs because they never did that in the last 20 years. FDI will never reach the LCOs because they are too small an entity. May be, many LCOs will be forced to sell their networks to the MSOs to fulfill the desires of the government. One wonders, for whom is the government working?
I am waiting for the first of November to see what happens after the switching off of analog cable.
—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma