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Piracy eats into digital TV drive
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New Delhi: Piracy is set to derail cable industry’s digitalisation drive with the free availability of half-million pirated set top boxes in the open market across Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad. These boxes are worth Rs 50-60 crore. However, through these boxes, the losses to the stakeholders is estimated to be worth Rs 150 crore annually, industry experts said.

Imported from China and locally assembled, such pirated boxes are getting seeded in consumers home at nominal or no costs. While this gives consumers access to most pay and free channels, the operators are not sharing the revenue from such pirated digital homes with the multi-service operators (MSOs) and broadcasters leading to revenue losses.

According to information gathered by FE, the proprietary set-top-boxes of Digicable, Hathway, and InCable, amongst others are freely available ‘off-the-shelf’ in several leading metros with cost ranging from Rs 700-1,200 or less than half the market price. Such boxes are being procured by small cable operators who then seed them at the consumer homes.

“While all MSOs have propriety boxes, the integration of encryption or conditional access system is not perfect in the boxes of some MSOs. Also, when new MSOs like Digicable entered the market, they flooded the market with their boxes that have found their way to the grey market,” a top executive of a leading cable company said.

This move has prompted local manufacturers to approach the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India (BECIL), a government of India enterprise. “We want BECIL to conduct an annual audit of all CAS-enabled digital set-top-boxes to validate the claims made by MSOs,” Vineet Wadhwa, chief technology officer and founder of Logic Eastern said.

“There is a disconnect between digitalisation drive and addressable digitalisation. As a result lakhs of digital cable subscribers are not reflected in the subscriber management system of the MSOs,” Wadhwa added.

But, consumers are not complaining. As a direct result of pirated digital boxes, consumers are getting access to 250-300 channels at a monthly fees of under Rs 150. “In the name of digitalisation, MSOs are getting badly hit as they do not know all their subscribers and thus can not switch off those who don’t pay for what they watch,” a senior executive said.

Pirated set-top-boxes also go against the governments initiative to drive digitalisation of cable services in the country. Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India spelled out the time table for the complete digitalisation of cable services in the country y 2013. Also, its recent tariff order for all addressable platforms, including digital cable and DTH services are meant to reduce the cost of content for the providers of digital, addressable cable services.

Source: The Financial Express

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