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Help Competition heads directly home with DTH
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MUMBAI: The entry of direct-to-home (DTH) television has not only increased the bargaining capacity of television viewers but also forced cable operators to attempt to go digital with the help of set-top boxes. Moreover, consumers are less willing to pay more subscription fees to the local cable operator.

The survey by Content Management Systems (CMS) for Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 22 cities revealed that competition provided by DTH has brought down subscription fees of cable operators. Consumers are now bargaining harder for better transmission quality and lower subscription fees.

The survey reveals a decreasing trend in cable subscription fees across all the cities due to expansion of DTH services and subsequent competition among service providers to attract and retain consumers. At the national level, the survey found a decline in average amount paid to cable operators. "Consumers are paying a maximum Rs 185 per month against over Rs 200 paid per month in 2007. The highest fee of Rs 319 per month was in Shillong while the lowest of Rs 106 per month was found in Chennai," the survey says. However, the increase in subscription fees in Ahmedabad and Mumbai is due to cable operators adopting digitalization through set-top-boxes to improve transmission.

The survey says compared to 2007, the percentage of households showing willingness to pay more for better services through digitalization to their local cable operator has come down to nearly 30% from earlier 90 per cent. This, it says, is because based on past experiences subscribers do not feel that paying more to the local cable operator will improve services and if they had to shell out more they would rather opt for a DTH connection. However some found installation charges for DTH were unaffordable.

The survey shows that few number of people in majority cities like Mumbai, Banglore, Ahmedabad, Cuttack, Guwahati, Jaipur, Raipur, Kochi, Shimla, Dehradun, Varanasi, Jammu and Shillong would like to pay more to their cable operator whereas a moderate number of viewers would prefer to pay more in cities like Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Jamshedpur, Lucknow, Patna and Chandigarh.

"People in many cities are now boldly complaining that they neither get receipts from cable operators nor is their signature taken on any register against the payment," the survey says. In cities where viewership is more (like Varanasi, Patna, Shimla, Jamshedpur, Guwahati, and Bhopal) there are more complaints of lack of receipts against monthly payments.

"It's true that people are demanding quality transmission and accurate billing practices but even the cable operators have changed fast, offering digitalised services at comparatively cheaper price," says Sanjay Ghagare, vice-president (operations) of Hathway Cable and Datacom which has a major share of cable viewers in the country.

Others say though DTH was a challenge, the digitalisation of signals and attractive prices offered by cable operators has reversed the market trend. "People in Jaipur and a few other cities have gone for DTH in a big way but viewers in most of the metros are still with cable operators who are improving their services fast," said Mohit Gupta, a city-based cable operator.

Source: The Times Of India

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