The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has decided to postpone the deadline for a complete digitization of cable services in the four metros (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata) to 31 October 2012.
According to the statement, the decision to defer the erstwhile July 1, 2012 date was taken by the MIB keeping in mind the ground realities, especially the non fulfillment of pre-requisite of seeding of set-top boxes in all cable viewing households.
"As a part of the MIB task force, I know that despite all parties being committed towards making the deadline, practical reasons such as seeding of set-top boxes in all cable-viewing homes, have led to the postponement of the digitization deadline earlier. Even now, there are issues which are being sorted out,” said Das, CEO, Zee News Ltd.
Noting that the seeding of boxes is the longest part of the program for digitization and the biggest worry, he added, “That said, we hope we would be able to meet the November 1 deadline."
“The modified deadline presents us with a unique opportunity to reach out to and impact a greater segment of the market. Hathway plans to procure the additional 10 lakh set top boxes to gear up and leverage this opportunity. The rush for digital services will peak around the last fortnight of October 2012 and we do not want to disappoint the consumers and drive them towards the costlier option of DTH services,” said G Subramaniam, chief financial officer, Hathway Cable and Datacom Ltd.
The choice of around 500 channels in a digitized world versus 18 to 20 in an analog version is expected to benefit customers, and also broadcasters by bringing down the carriage fee substantially.
DTH operators anticipate a lot of consumers to shift from cable services to a DTH model as the deadline comes closer and TVs stop showing channels. They have thus invested heavily in inventory, infrastructure and training.
Harit Nagpal, president, DTH Operators Association of India said, “The extension (of deadline) is a major setback for the DTH industry, which has invested a great deal in terms of set-top-box inventory and installer manpower to cater to the expected demand on the cutover date. It is difficult to understand what different is being planned in the next three months that was not in the last six, which would not lead to another postponement in October. Moreover, November hosts Diwali and could turn out to be an unwise cutover timeline since it is the peak month for broadcasters for ad revenues and the migrant installer community goes back to their hometowns. The DTH community which is licensed regulated and pays taxes on behalf of each of its customers has once again lost out to its analogue competitors who are not subjected to these rules.”