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Cable TV operators' revenue hit during lockdown

Contrary to the expectation that

cable TV operators would see growth in businesses as people would stay glued to their television during the lockdown, they witnessed a 15 per cent fall in revenue in the period due to 'low' renewal and lack of new content in regional channels, an official said on Tuesday.

The turnover from the broadband services provided by these operators has also plummeted by 25-30 per cent, he said.

"Most of the cable TV operators are passing through a rough patch as revenue has declined from both cable connections and broadband subscriptions.

"On an average, cable TV revenue is down by 15 per cent while the same from broadband falls by 25-30 per cent for a combination of factors," Association of Broadband and Cable TV Operators secretary Chandranath Pyne told PTI.

The majority of the problem is attributed to the lockdown, he said, adding that they experience 'low recharge' during the holy month of Ramzan as many follow rituals and stay away from entertainment.

"About 15-20 per cent of those who renewed their subsriptions downgraded their package after regional entertainment broadcasters started running old content during the lockdown," he said.

The association claimed to have a subscriber base of 20-25 lakh, out of 70 lakh cable TV subscribers in West Bengal.

The All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) has pointed out that even if the subscriptions for Set-Top Boxes (STBs) are not renewed in April, 2020, subscribers will still enjoy all the free channels of Doordarshan.

Most of the offices have been closed while hotels, shops and malls remained shut during the lockdown, and they are not "recharging both TV and internet connections, the cable operators said.

These customers provide a sizeable chunk of the businesses, they said.

Renewals from connections to the migrant workers and students, who have left for their hometowns and native villages, have been stopped, while a section of low-value customers, who depend on daily wage, are failing to recharge their packs for lack of resources, cable operators said.

Pradipta Pandya, an independent operator in Salkia area of Howrah district, said impact of the lockdown on cable operators depend on location and profile of residents of an area.

"We requested broadcasters to offer rebate as they continue to run old content and we face ire of subscribers," he said.

Many operators, who are not withdrawing the connections on account of non-payment, are worried of the fact that subscribers may refuse to pay dues later.

"We are not disconnecting and following the West Bengal government's instruction," Siticable head (east) Suresh Sethia said.