The digitization of cable TVs in India has been in the news all this past month since the original deadline for the same had been set for July 1, 2012. However, reports yesterday confirmed that after only 25 percent of set top boxes were found to have been placed in cable TV homes across the four metros, the I&B ministry decided to push the deadline to November 1, 2012.
Commenting on the deadline extension, Mr. K Jayaraman, MD & CEO of Hathway, Cable and Datacom Limited has stated that, “We support the I&B ministry’s decision to modify the deadline for a complete switch over to 31st October 2012 for all the four Metro cities keeping in mind public interest as well as smoother transition. As there is no other alternative but to switchover to digitalisation which has been committed in writing by all the stake holders and which we’ve been prepared for, we look forward to now providing better viewing quality and HD offerings to our viewers and bag more customers.”
Sufficient Set-top boxes with Hathway, assures CEO
Hathway, in an official statement assured that they have “sufficient inventory to seed the Set Top Boxes as per requirements and also to address shortfall, if any faced in any particular markets by the consumers.”
“We are confident that digitalisation will benefit our viewers with a wider choice of channels and better quality while bringing in transparency and accountability in the industry.” he added.
This move by the government comes post an amendment to the Section 4A of the Cable Regulation Act, 1995, which now directs the implementation of mandatory addressable digitization (MAD). The new ruling essentially implies that all cable operators will have to switch the signal that they transmit to digital, instead of the earlier analog.
In one of our earlier reports, it had been speculated that the deadline might be pushed further. It was then reported that cable operators were moving court seeking an extension to the aforementioned deadline to complete the digitization process, across the four metros – Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. In a Times of India report, it was then cited that in Chennai, stakeholders, like the government-run Arasu Cable TV Corporation and Sun TV Network's Sumangali Cable Vision were not fully ready to meet the pre-set July 1 deadline.
The I&B Ministry, too had hinted at the fact that there were chances that the deadline may be extended on a city-to-city basis, if need be. Chennai and Kolkata, reportedly were far from what would require them to reach the stipulated deadline. In Chennai, only 12.5 percent of the subscribers have set-top boxes. This report also carried the quote of P Sakilan, the operators' association president, who added that, “It is highly impossible to launch digital network in Chennai before July.” Sakilan further stated that even if they were to provide the set-top boxes for free to the viewers, it would take four months to import them, test-run them, and deliver to 40 lakh viewers in Chennai. Sakilan, had also stated that the biggest challenge for operators lay in convincing the masses to pay amounts like Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500 for the set-top boxes, moreso because of the total 40 lakh viewers in Chennai, roughly 25 lakh belong to the middle and lower class families, who would find the amount beyond their means.