The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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TV channels upbeat about Bill of choices

Mumbai, Dec. 12: Television channels have welcomed the Conditional Access System Bill, calling it a “win-win” situation for broadcasters, viewers, cable operators and multiple system operators.

“This legislation will help all constituents, including 40 million houses, cable operators, MSOs and broadcasters, and advertisers and advertising agencies,” said Subhash Chandra, chairman and managing director, Zee Telefilms Ltd.

STAR, too, welcomed the Bill, saying it will bring in “complete transparency”.

According to Chandra, after the Bill comes into force, “consumers can access the channels and programmes they want to watch. Households can also block programming they don’t want their children to watch”.

Consumers may or may not pay more than what they are already paying to cable operators, based on the number of pay channels they subscribe to.

The charge, of course, would not include that of the set-top box, priced around Rs 2,000.

The basic package of free-to-air channels will cost around Rs 100-150, and viewers will have to pay more for each pay channel. The prices are yet to be determined.

There is talk that major entertainment channels may go free in the CAS regime because, as an industry source said, “visibility is important”.

Broadcasters are hoping for more revenue from the new set-up. “Currently, broadcasters feel they are getting paid a small 15 per cent of the pay revenue that cable operators are getting. The CAS will over a period of time bring more revenue,” Chandra said.

There will be aggressive channel marketing and promotion, and subscription price wars targeted at the end-consumer. This would be unlike the earlier gameplan that was distribution-centred, the industry said.

“Cable operators can make a reasonable profit margin,” said Jawahar Goel, director, Siticable, a cable network of the Zee stable.

“As subscription from the houses is not increasing, cable operators resort to under-declaration. With CAS introduction, the cable operator will have to pay for houses accessing such pay channels through market economies,” Goel said.

MSOs, sandwiched between broadcasters and cable operators, are likely to benefit too, the channels say.

With CAS, the business model will shift from declaration regime to distribution regime. So MSOs will function as a distributor with regular margins.

“The Bill presents a win-win situation for everyone,” said Goel. “Television will become like an FMCG service.”

According to the industry, the Bill’s implementation may take quite some time - between two to five years.

The government will fix the minimum number of free-to-air channels and also determine the maximum rate that a network can charge and the programming genre.

The Bill’s critics, including viewers’ forums, believe the government may try to regulate the viewers’ freedom. Many say the rating methods, too, may change, but rating agency TAM doesn’t think so.

“People will choose the same channels they watch now,” a TAM official said. Things may, however, become a little more difficult for the rating agency, with households likely to go for new channels every month.

New Zee tariff

Zee-Turner today announced its new pricing structure.

With the Conditional Access System (CAS) Bill in mind, the network’s bouquet of 16 channels will now cost Rs 50 a subscriber every month in the metros. This is Rs 8 more than earlier.

The network said it has revised the price structure to promote pay channels in nascent markets. The rural market and small-town operators will get a bonus of a new encrypted channel at the existing Rs 37 a month.

The new channel comes along with the existing four encrypted and the three free-to-air ones.

According to Zee, the new structure would pave the way to a CAS environment, that will come into force from January 1, 2003.

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