This is in keeping with the expansion plans of Sun to to become a super distributing authority of cable and satellite TV channels in the South.
We are targeting 100 per cent penetration for our pay channels for which we need to have our own multi-system operations, said Sun Networks director for Gemini and Udaya, Sharad Kumar. Smooth transition of Gemini, the leading channel in Andhra Pradesh, into a pay channel is the first priority of the communications company, according to him.
The satellite television network has also signed-up agreements with all the multi service operators (MSOs) functioning in Hyderabad - SitiCable of Zee network, Rajan Raheja-promoted Hathway Cable and Datacom and Hinduja-owned INCablenet - for the same. The city has around 850 cable operators.
To enable 100 per cent penetration, Sun is dividing the territories among the three MSOs for distribution of its signals based on their stronghold in each area and their relationships with the cable operators in that area.
For instance, if SitiCable is strong in Area A, then it will distribute the signals of Gemini and Teja TV exclusively in that area, while Hathway and INCable will put traps (devices used for blocking signals) to block Gemini and Teja TV signals in that area. Similarly, if INCable has good relationship with cable operators in Area B, then it will distribute Gemini and Teja signals exclusively in that area, while the other two will put traps to block these signals in the locality.
This practice will increase the accountability of the cable operators, said Mr Kumar.
The Telugu channels of the company already are getting better declarations than the industry average in the city, according to him.
Cable operators in Andhra Pradesh are known for their abysmally low declarations which range from 15 to 20 per cent of the actual connections.
Also, wherever the MSOs have a dispute in territorial distribution, GCV is stepping in and doing its own distribution. The MSO will replicate the strategy in Bangalore for which it is already in talks with cable operators in the city.
We are getting a very positive response from Bangalore and Mysore, said Mr Kumar.
All Sun Network channels are expected to go pay by mid-2003. It has started with its Telugu channels - Teja TV and Gemini TV on December 1 and 9, respectively.
Excluding its flagship channel Sun TV, other Tamil channels - KTV, Sun News and SCV are expected to become pay-based shortly, followed by Udaya, Ushe and Udaya News in Kannada language and Surya in Malayalam.
According to Mr Kumar, most of the network and all the other infrastructure necessary for GCV operations is in place.
The communications company has so far completed stringing 300 km of optic fibre cable (OFC) network in place.
The network has a ring topology with a diameter of 30 kilometre which more or less covers the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. It is putting up a single head-end (receivers and modulators) in the city.
Since Sun has an all-India ISP (Internet service provider) licence, it plans to provide Internet services alongwith cable TV in phase two, while it will concentrate on cable TV distribution in the first phase. And in phase three it plans to offer broadband services like video-on-demand, gaming etc.
Each phase will be evaluated after three months and if connectivity crosses 70 per cent, the company plans to enter the next stage.