The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pay-per-view lined up

New Delhi, Aug. 28: Even if the last word from the Centre on rolling back the conditional access system is not yet out, industry has begun preparing to offer pay-per-view programmes for those who have bought set-top boxes.

Key broadcasters in the industry assess that CAS has been effectively deferred till the general elections and any rollout of it now would only be tokenism and intended as a face-saver for the government.

Set-top boxes decrypt pay channel signals and are at the core of the CAS.

But with the government rolling back the regime in Delhi and dithering over it in the three other metros, multi-system operators (MSO) such as Hathway, Incable, RPG Netcom and Siti have been saddled with the equipment that may now become redundant.

Sony Entertainment Television and other broadcasters are looking at an opportunity to open up a stream of revenue by offering premium services that would make good the CAS equipment.

“I think there are opportunities to make the (set-top) boxes move in a market-friendly way. For example, we (Sony) have bought the rights for (the Hindi film) Saathiya which we can offer to show on pay-per-view,” Sony’s chief executive officer Kunal Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta is also working to package special interest programmes such as recordings of major cricket matches and Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle’s concerts on view-on-demand basis. “I think set-top boxes can be marketed as a stand-alone feature with additional content,” said Dasgupta.

He said broadcasters and MSOs would be in talks to work out features of set-top boxes that could be exploited. Apart from the view-on-demand services that can be packaged, the boxes can also be used for gaming and lottery programmes. “We can offer MSOs packages of content that can be accessed from our servers through the set-top boxes.”

The wranglings over CAS have already taken a toll on all sections of the industry. Broadcasters had planned to launch new content from September 1 that were designed to drive a demand for set-top boxes. Sony today announced that it was launching a serial based on a strong female character “that would rise above kitchen politics” called Jassi Jaise Koi Nahin.

“We were all so caught up with CAS for the last nine months that it was becoming difficult to plan with any degree of certainty,” Dasgupta said.

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