It’s been a slow start for CAS. A variety of factors – resistance to the possibility of paying higher cable bills and the inability to provide set-top boxes by cable networks in time – has restricted the penetration of CAS in the mandated areas of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata to just 17 per cent till the middle of January. Put in numbers, pay TV penetration in the CAS-mandated areas has thus reached 2.77 lakh homes of the 16.33 lakh homes covered by the CAS notification.
A survey of how CAS has performed so far also revealed that an additional 12 per cent of homes in CAS areas had registered for set-top boxes and were awaiting installation. This means less than one-third of the mandated areas have responded positively to the Conditional Access System (CAS).
This also implies pay channels are suffering a major loss of viewers in CAS areas. Though the overall numbers of TV viewers are not high in CAS areas, they constitute the higher end of the income scale. "Pay channel viewership in CAS areas does not exceed 25 per cent," TAM Media’s CEO LV Krishnan told HT.
The 8 million cable homes in the 3 metros account for around 12 per cent of the country’s 68 million cable-connected homes. Of these the CAS areas have 1.63 million TV homes – or just 2.4 per cent of the country’s cable homes.
"These figures are better than expected. An additional 5 per cent may have added on in February," responded K Jayaraman, CEO of one of the larger cable networks Hathway Cable & Datacom, adding that: "The pay channels themselves are not doing enough to promte CAS.
Mumbai has been the most favourable to CAS with a 25 per cent penetration. Of its 5.5 lakh CAS homes, 1.4 lakh homes have already installed set-top boxes. Further, another 20 per cent have registered and are awaiting the installation of STBs. Delhi was slower with just under one lakh homes installing STBs of a total of 6.8 lakh cable-connected homes in CAS areas – a penetration of 14 percent. Just 6 per cent said that they were waiting for installation of boxes.
The most resistant to CAS has been Kolkata with just 10 per cent penetration. Only 41,000 subscribers have signed up for STBs of 4.09 lakh cable homes in CAS areas.
The CAS study commissioned by TAM Media and carried out by AC Nielson examined 2,250 respondents across 3 cities in mid-January. It is likely the number of homes that have installed STBs has risen since.
Pricing seems to be the biggest issue. The perception that CAS is expensive seems to be the biggest deterrent for TV viewers signing up. The TAM Media study shows that in Mumbai 72 per cent of those who have not yet opted for CAS said the services were very expensive. In Kolkata an even larger 83 per cent said CAS was too expensive, while in Delhi the number was 46 per cent.