The Telegraph
Saturday , November 3 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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MSOs press play after digital pause

Cable networks have started drawing up channel packages for set-top box subscribers and rolling out EMI plans for those citing price as a deterrent to digitisation, signalling that the analogue era is over whether anyone likes it or not.

Multi-system operators in town are no longer discussing how much longer they can continue beaming analogue signals simultaneously with digital feed within the metropolitan area. The focus has shifted to how quickly they can complete the switch to digitisation that Mamata Banerjee has said can wait.

For the subscriber, it is all about understanding how the new system is going to change the way he pays for and watches satellite television.

Subscribers in a particular area needed to pay the same monthly fee to their service provider under the analogue regime but digital cable television comes with the option of choosing individual channels or bouquets of content and paying only for those. Many people might not be convinced they will benefit but are resigned to the transition.

“I find picking packages and remembering to subscribe to a particular sports channel before a sporting event of my choice a little taxing. But now that there is no option left, I guess we have to move forward,” said retired government official R.K. Ghosh.

Cable subscribers currently pay between Rs 150 and Rs 225 a month for a connection, depending on the service provider and area of residence. Digital TV pricing by an MSO will be the same for all with the local cable operators having little say in it.

“We are thinking of introducing three or four packages to suit different preferences,” said the director of one of the market leaders in the city.

Discounts on the prices of channels that are part of a bouquet won’t be available if someone picks them individually from the a la carte menu.

MSOs in Calcutta, Delhi and Mumbai are trying to keep their rates between Rs 123 and Rs 300, the base pack being the bouquet of 100 free-to-air channels that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has made mandatory for them to provide.

A Calcutta MSO that is planning to declare its rates next week said the next slab would be the “premium pack” for around Rs 240 a month, containing most of the channels currently available on set-top boxes. “Along with the sports channels, the charge will be between Rs 280 and Rs 300,” an official said.

The challenge for the MSOs is to keep their prices lower than the DTH players, whose subscription fees range between Rs 150 and around Rs 450 a month.