CAS In Chennai: Pay Channels Now Bank On Cricket

Chennai: | Updated: Nov 17 2003, 05:30am hrs
Guess, who will be praying on their knees when master blaster Sachin Tendulkar faces the Australian pace battery at the Sydney cricket field next month The cricket buffs all over India is the obvious answer, but this time, it may not be an entirely correct answer, at least in Chennai.

Those who pray the most will be the guys in the satellite TV channels, which went pay in September when the Conditional Access System (CAS) was introduced in the metro. They hope that the lure of seeing Indian cricket team playing the Aussies on small screen will bring back the pay channels to Chennai homes.

Stumped by the customer resistance to CAS, the pay channels and cable TV operators are seeing the Indian cricket teams Australian sortie slated to be held in December as the last straw to save CAS in the metro.

Two months after it was introduced, the CAS has turned out to be a damp squib in the metro burning a big hole in the pockets of pay channels and cable TV operators. Despite many sops and freebies, the TV buffs refused to budge from their down with CAS stand leading to the pile-up of set top boxes (STBs) in the cable operators warehouses.

According to officials in the cable operators association, out of the 10 lakh-odd cable TV subscribers, hardly 5,000 had so far installed STBs. The response from the customers so far is very poor. Despite many concessions, they still feel that the Rs 5,000 price tag of the STBs are too high. And since a public interest litigation against CAS is being heard by the Madras High Court, they are following a wait and watch policy till the picture on CAS comes clear, they said.

Since the introduction of CAS on September 1, pay channels such as ESPN, STAR TV, Discovery, to mention a few, have gone off the small screen from most of the houses. This has resulted in their advertisement and subscription revenue taking a hit. We are experiencing a drastic fall in our revenues. It has gone down by as much as 50 per cent in some cases since September, a leading cable operator in the city said.

According to satellite TV industry sources, they were actually expecting the customer resistance to CAS to weaken during the India-Australia-New Zealand triangular series being played currently. That, however, did not happen as the series is being played in India and the exclusive telecast rights rest with DD Sports, which is a free-to-air channel. Now, we are hoping that the Indian cricket teams series down-under may help to change the customer attitude, they said.