Now, LMOs Get A Lesson On Cable Fee Hike

New Delhi: | Updated: Apr 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
For the past one month, 4 pm onwards has been busy time for the cable TV fraternity in the metros, mainly Delhi and Mumbai. Reason: Cable operators of all levels have been meeting in different parts of these cities to educate the last mile operators (LMOs) on why a hike in cable TV fee is imminent. All in preparation for the May hike, in some places going up to 150 per cent.

Not only have these meetings brought to the fore a new coinageLMOsafter the familiar MSOs (multisystem operators), but also some of the hard issues which always went unanswered. In groups of about 20-25, these daily meetings discuss how an LMO should prepare himself to answer questions shot by any cable TV consumer. Cable Operators Federation of India president Roop Sharma said its very important to educate the LMOs (the franchisee whos in touch with the customer, gives him service, collects the monthly fee, and pays the entertainment tax). Ultimately, its the LMO whos answerable to the consumer, and should therefore be able to communicate well with him, Ms Sharma adds.

Claim cable operators that most of these meetings have been pretty successful, thereby paving way for a transition to the high-fee cable TV regime. In some areas where the existing monthly charge is Rs 125, the rates are going up by over 150 per cent from May 1. In a meeting last month, cable operators decided on a flat monthly fee of Rs 360, to be implemented in phases starting May 1. Although splinter cable groups have already started surfacing in several areas in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata, among others, offering cheaper rates to cable TV customers (thereby giving a stiff competition to those executing a hike), theres a general air of confidence about an increase coming about. For instance, says Home Cable Networks Vikki Chowdhury, an independent MSO, that of the 38 million cable TV homes in India, around 8 to 10 million homes are likely to pay the increased charges from May 1 itself.

Adds Ms Sharma that some who resist paying higher cable TV charges initially will also follow the crowd soon. However, cable operators are not shutting their eyes to the possibility that there could be a 10 per cent loss of connectivity after the rates are hiked. Thats when cable operators yearn for the conditional access system (CAS), which has been approved in-principle by the Consultative Committee. CAS is the ultimate solution in the chaotic cable TV business, when consumers will pay for only what they watch on TV, they say. But till the time CAS comes into being and theres resistance to hike in cable TV rates, the meetings will continue. Educating LMOs to give smart answers to consumers questions.