cable tv: Broadcasters switch off connection to leading cable TV platforms


Broadcasters Disney Star, Zee Entertainment and Culver Max Entertainment (Sony) have disconnected signals of their channels to leading cable TV companies like Hathway Digital, DEN Networks, GTPL, Hinduja Global Solutions (NXT Digital), Fastway Transmission and UCN Cable, multiple industry sources told ET.

Broadcasters have switched off signals since these multi-system operators (MSOs) have not signed fresh agreements under the New Tariff Order (NTO) 3.0 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which came into effect on February 1.

The broadcasters had issued notices to these companies, asking them to either sign an agreement or face disconnection. The deactivation of signals will impact millions of subscribers served by these platforms across India.

IndiaCast Media Distribution, the content monetisation arm of TV18 and Viacom18, is still contemplating its next move considering the decision taken by other members of the broadcasters’ body, Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), the sources said.

“Disney Star, Zee and Sony have disconnected signals to AIDCF (All India Digital Cable Federation) members. The AIDCF members have also decided that they will blackout the channels of broadcasters who deny channel signals to any of its members. Many independent MSOs have also decided to voluntarily switch off signals of these broadcasters in solidarity with the AIDCF,” a top cable TV executive said.

Industry sources said Siti Networks, which is also a member of the AIDCF, has not been impacted as it has signed the agreements.

“Broad- casters had taken a price in- crease after four years post the release of new NTO guidelines by Trai. Most DTH and cable operators, whose base adds up to 80% of India’s PayTV customers, have already started implementing the new prices and they’ve had to increase consumer prices by approx 5% after four years. Some cable operators did not sign fresh agreements, thus forcing broadcasters to disconnect their services after serving due notice,” said IBDF secretary-general Siddharth Jain. MSOs, however, challenged IBDF’s assertion that 80% of the operators had signed new deals under the NTO 3.0 regime.As per Trai’s latest data, the key AIDCF members excluding Siti have 25-30 million active subscribers and they haven’t signed deals with the broadcasters under the new regime, a person in the know said.

Experts said the stand-off between the broadcasters and MSOs has major implications for the TV broadcast industry. “The broadcasters might see a drop in their channel reach if this stand-off continues,” a top media executive said.

Media agencies and advertisers are in a wait-and-watch mode as the situation is fluid at this stage.

“NTO 3.0 might take another 2-3 months to settle. The implementation might result in short-term pain. However, past experiences have shown us that TV viewership doesn’t change drastically,” the CEO of a leading agency said.

Stakeholders in the broadcast industry are hopeful that the broadcasters and MSOs will soon reach a truce. “If not, then the channel blackout might force subscribers to look for alternatives like DD Free Dish or OTT,” a media executive added.

MSOs are protesting the hike in channel and bouquet rates by the broadcasters since the TV distribution industry is under stress due to subscriber loss to DD Free Dish and OTT platforms. TV subscription prices are expected to go up by Rs 25-50 for subscribers.

The ADICF has filed a plea in the Kerala High Court seeking interim relief from disconnection notices issued by the broadcasters. The HC is slated to hear the matter on Monday. The main matter seeking a stay on the NTO 3.0 implementation will be taken up by the same court two days later.



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