India cablers fight new price regs

World Brief

India’s cablers are lashing out at tough regulations that come into force on Jan. 1.

At the Cable and Satellite Broad-casting Assn. of Asia Convention in Hong Kong this week, they urged the government to let market forces set prices rather than opt for what they called overregulation, with a price cap that means viewers will pay just 10¢ per channel.

All cable operators in New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta also will have to deploy set-top boxes so that content can be encrypted under the terms of the Conditional Access Bill. This should prevent signal piracy and under-declaration of subscribers that currently cost an estimated $685 million a year.

Bill was passed three years ago, but the industry has dragged its heels because encryption hampers advertis-ing — a key revenue stream used to compensate for subscriber under-declaration.

The price cap is painful for pre-mium channels like HBO Asia, which struggles to exact a fair price from operators.

However, Hinduja HTMT, which deals with an estimated 30,000 cable operators, believes that increased transparency will lead to increased revenues and more stability for a cable industry facing competition from satellite players.

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