The market leader has been the first off the blocks in initiating conditional access system (CAS) rollout on the ground. RPG Netcom, which feeds more than 70 per cent cable homes in Calcutta and Howrah, became the first multi-system operator (MSO) in the country to hand over CAS resource kits to last-mile operators in notified Zone I of the city on Sunday and announce “an attractive” pay-channel package.
Around 150 RPG Netcom-affiliated operators in Zone I, to be connected through CAS on September 1, were provided with the kit, comprising subscription forms for the set-top boxes as well as the pay channels. The operators can approach their respective subscribers with the kit from Monday. Viewers in Kidderpore, Behala, New Alipore, parts of Alipore, parts of Tollygunge, Kudghat, Mahestala, Budge Budge and parts of Garia onwards to Baruipur come under the first notified zone.
The MSO unveiled "a unique, comprehensive and affordable" bouquet of pay channels on Sunday. RPG Express, carrying approximately 30 “popular pay channels”, will come for Rs 138. Thus, a Netcom subscriber will have to shell out Rs 210 (including Rs 72 for the free-to-air package) plus taxes for his/her total cable fare. Individually, major broadcasters STAR, SET-Discovery and Zee-Turner are all offering their packages at Rs 55 each, while ESPN-STAR Sports has quoted Rs 32. Ten Sports comes for Rs 14, Nickleodeon Rs 10, Hallmark Rs 12 and B4U Movies Rs 8.
“Our rate plan is in keeping with the Union government's aspirations of keeping pay TV rates around today's levels. It’s a win-win model for all the stakeholders in the industry,” said RPG Netcom CEO Amit Nag. The MSO expects around 80 per cent of its current viewers to opt for set-top boxes over the next three months. “We are also the only service provider to offer the option of both analog and digital set-top boxes to our viewers. Anyone wishing to switch from analog to digital platform, has to just return the box and pay the price differential,” said Nag.
The analog box will come for Rs 2,650 and can either be bought outright, or lease-rented against a monthly rental of Rs 45 and a security deposit of Rs 1,500. Netcom hopes to launch its digital platform on September 30.
The Cable Operators’ Sangram Committee, while hailing the RPG Express package, has expressed concern over the one-month time lag before the MSO launches its digital platform. “The market is gradually polarising towards digital and demand for digital boxes will only rise, since SitiCable is rolling out CAS only on a digital platform,” observed committee spokesperson Tarak Saha.