The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cables crossed over count

Two of the three big bouquets are adamant about increased connectivity; the multi-system operator (MSO) says the cable operator must declare more points; the para cableman insists he can’t burden the consumer any more; the viewer would rather do without channels he doesn’t watch than cough up more per month…

Cable and satellite homes are back in the crossfire of the numbers game, as STAR and Zee-Turner have demanded a near-doubling in declaration.

STAR, which gets paid for around 1.27 lakh cable homes served by RPG Netcom, has asked for “a lakh more points”, while the Subhash Chandra stable has sought around “80 per cent extra connectivity”, queering the pitch for the operators who control the last mile.

A section of operators that met senior officials of RPG Netcom recently, expressed concern over the “exorbitant payout” the extra numbers would entail.

With cable subscription in city homes registering an average hike of Rs 50 over the past 45 days, some cablemen have hinted at doing without one of the three major bouquets — STAR, Zee-Turner and Sony — to make ends meet.

“We can’t keep on burdening the consumers in a price-conscious market like Calcutta. At this rate, around 25 per cent of the operators will have to wind up within a year,” says Tarak Saha, secretary, Forum of Cable Operators.

The broadcasters are in no mood for lenience. “What we have asked for is hardly unreasonable, considering that RPG Netcom feeds more than eight lakh cable homes in Calcutta,” says Firoz Sayyed, vice-president, distribution (eastern India), STAR.

The broadcaster has handed over a list of operators who “conceal big numbers” to RPG Netcom. “Our homework says these operators can easily declare 50 per cent of their actual connectivity and still make a killing,” Sayyed adds.

Zee, which has upgraded its content by taking the Turner channels on board, is also confident of getting the numbers it wants. “We don’t foresee any issue with the connectivity we have asked for,” says Sunil Khanna, CEO, Zee-Turner.

Operators, however, are starting to voice their inability to carry the “burden” of all three bouquets.

RPG Netcom chief executive Ashim Dutta feels a bouquet blackout is not the way out. “Of late, broadcasters have been quite severe with numbers, which have to come from the ground if the consumers want their favourite channels,” says Dutta, insisting that “the only long-term solution is conditional access system (CAS)”, to allow the viewer to pay for and watch the channels of choice.

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