What will cable TV digitization actually cost you
| by Anuradha Shetty
What to expect?
One of the benefits of digitization has been access to more channels
Primarily, digitization promises to improve the quality audio and video that a customer receives. Digital TV services also allow for more channels and services such as movies on demand.
Airtel Digital TV is one of the popular players in this space. As an Airtel spokesperson explained, "Digitalization is a welcome step towards bringing in a high-quality viewing experience for consumers in India. The proposed move effectively translates into a wider choice of TV channels for customers along with offering superior quality of transmission, increased value added services, and transparent pricing. Moreover, the untapped market potential for operators offering digital content is huge with over 100 million homes to be converted to a digital platform in 3 years time—the largest in the world at this point."
Digitization will also help curb the under-reporting of subscribers by local cable operators, which is a common tactic for avoiding taxes and fees. According to same Assocham report, local cable operators report only around 15 percent of their paying customers to Multiple System Operators (MSOs) and broadcasters, as a result of which their value diminishes and the government loses out on service tax."
The prices subscribers are forced to pay, are also currently not standardized. According to this report, a market survey that was commissioned by TRAI and conducted by reputed research firm MDRA revealed that the average monthly cable bill for a subscriber varied from Rs 149 in Kochi to Rs 322 in Shillong, despite the fact that the services that were being offered were largely the same.
The problems with digitization
Slow rate of adoption triggered the delay
In stark contrast to the slow rate of adoption of digital TV technology in the country, a host of Direct-To-Home (DTH) players have managed to corner large audiences across Indian towns and cities. This has clearly shown that there is room for improvement in the market, and that consumers are prepared to pay for superior services.
The process of rolling out digital TV was split into phases at the time that the regulation was being formulated. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai were to be the first to switch over, with a deadline set for July 1, 2012. TV transmissions through regular cable were meant to have been terminated on that date.
However, just days away from the stipulated deadline, it was decided that the rate of adoption was too slow, and that too many people, especially in Chennai and Kolkata, would be left in the dark if analog TV was terminated. Now deferred by four months, the current deadline for the four metros to make the transition is November 1, 2012. While good for consumers, the delay in the implementation has been a setback for the industry.
A smoother transition is the need of the hour..
According to Airtel, "Digitization is an important and critical policy intervention to provide high quality video content to customers. The delay in implementation is disappointing and expensive… That said, we will continue to support the government's digitization agenda as it is in the best interest of our customers, and look forward to its successful implementation at the earliest.”
Image credit: Getty Images
Tags: Cable DTH , India DTH , Analog TV black-out , Digital signals , set-top boxes , DTH services , Videocon d2h service , mandatory addressable digitization , Analog TV black-out , Digital signals , set-top boxes , DTH services , mandatory addressable digitization
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