Local Cable TV Operators Fail To Fill In The Blanks

As news started coming in of Indian forces striking terrorist camps in Pakistan early on Tuesday morning, many televisions in the city went blank. No, it was not a news blackout but the fallout of the impasse between
Multi Service Operators (MSOs) and Local Cable Operators (LCOs) over the new tariff regime that is to begin on April 1st.

LCOs started switching off cable transmission in a phased manner from Tuesday and this situation may continue till the entire migration process is over.

So far, local cable TV subscribers had been receiving around 350 to 400 channels for a monthly subscription fee of Rs 350. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had announced a new tariff policy by which consumers would have to pay for only those channels that they watched and not for the many extras. February 15 was the deadline to select the channels that subscribers wanted to watch, but consumers had not received forms with the prices for each channel. With the extension of the deadline, subscribers thought they had got some respite but that was not to be.

Lok Sabha polls behind the blank screens

Now, cable operators have begun to distribute and collect forms and these forms needed to be uploaded in the servers before the cable transmission can be resumed. However, this surprise move before the March 31
deadline has left local cable TV viewers in dismay.

So, why this ‘sudden’ move? A cable TV operator told Bangalore Mirror, “Though the last date is March 31, we have been told that the Lok Sabha election dates could be announced any time before March end. To
ensure a resolution in time before the announcement of elections, cable operators are being pushed to finish the migration process earlier.”

Technical glitches slow down migration process

Karnataka State Cable TV Operators Association president, VS Patrick Raju said that recently there was a meeting of MSOs who have decided to shut down the channels immediately. The MSOs don’t want to wait till March 31 for migration. “However, the migration is not easy as we are really finding it tough to upload the forms due to technical complications. The server crashes often and hangs. We have to wait and watch how things unfold,” he said, adding that cable prices may see a significant variation.

Fixing the price point: Lost in translation

Currently, the Diamond pack comes at a price of Rs 650. The basic pack is priced at Rs 180. “Many subscribers had thought that their favorite channels would be in the basic pack. But, we are trying hard to tell people
that the basic pack had free-to-air channels only and most of the top channels are priced anywhere between Rs 15 to Rs 19,” said Raju.

According to TRAI, Karnataka has about 1.1 crore local cable subscribers, of which only about 30 per cent have submitted their choice of channels.
While the revenue sharing tussle between the MSOs and the LCOs continues, the subscriber is staring at a blank screen.―Bangalore Mirror

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