The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Three’s a crowd in cabledom

The two in the fray are dogged by under-declaration and channel rate hikes. But that hasn’t stopped a third player from throwing its hat into the cable TV ring.

Manthan Broadband Services Pvt Ltd, a head-end of nine “breakaway” cable operators, is ready to roll “by this month-end”. The control room of the ‘third alternative’ — after RPG Netcom and SitiCable — will be housed on Ganesh Chandra Avenue and feed cable homes on Camac Street, Park Street, Kalighat and New Alipore in Phase I, before branching out to Shyambazar and Dunlop.

“Manthan has been conceptualised and formed by cable operators to address the problems faced by operators over the last mile. Of late, operators have been marginalised and our efforts will be directed towards keeping their business identity intact,” says chief operating officer Rangan Dasgupta.

The directors of Manthan are confident of providing ground support to operators in marketing and technology, “and most important”, in raising awareness at the subscriber level. “We will also work towards educating operators and organising interface among all the tiers of the trade to take the industry forward,” says Dasgupta.

Manthan hopes to kick off with 70 channels, including all the major bouquets and a few “exclusive” overseas channels. “Our network backbone will be equipped to provide any service which requires point-to-point connectivity, like Internet through cable, telephony and video conferencing. Besides, our picture quality will be superior, thanks to our better carrier-to-noise ratio,” he adds.

Most players in the industry feel there is hardly any room for another service provider in town. “The existing multi-system operators (MSOs) are bleeding and there is little attraction in this business module at this point. This is not an FMCG product where you can offer something extra. Besides, quality needs huge investments and expertise that can’t be bought off the shelves,” says RPG Netcom chief executive Ashim Dutta.

SitiCable seems sceptical about “value-additions” wooing consumers in Calcutta. After all, broadband had been introduced in Bangalore, but didn’t find many takers, and plans to take the technology to Delhi had to be shelved.

The broadcasters, meanwhile, are in wait-and-watch mode. Firoz Sayyed, vice-president, distribution (eastern India), STAR, says: “Technically, we have no problems in giving them our signal.

But in the interests of the industry, we would advise them to sink any differences they might have with the existing MSOs and work together to try and increase the yield from the ground.”

Amit Saha of Sony Entertainment Television says he has been approached by Manthan, but is yet to “discuss the matter internally”.

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