CAS vs DTH - Views on News from Equitymaster

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Mar 16, 2007

To give the Indian broadcasting companies more leeway in terms of pricing their products and to check the massive under reporting in subscriber base, CAS was finally introduced in the other three metros from Jan 1, 2007 (it is already in place in Chennai since September 2003). This gave the viewer an additional distribution platform to choose from and since then, the opinion over the benefits of one vis--vis the other has been rather divided. In this article, we try and draw a comparison between the two and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of one over the another. Conditional Access System
CAS is an addressable system wherein the customer gets transmission of TV channels trough a set-top box (STB). The transmission signals are encrypted and viewers need to buy a set-top box to receive and decrypt the signal. DTH does not compete with CAS. Cable TV and DTH are two methods of delivery of television content. CAS is integral to both the systems in delivering pay channels.

Set-Top Box
The STB is the device that enables a subscriber view pay channels. It is not required to view Free-to-Air channels provided by Doordarshan This instrument decodes signals from the cable operator for viewing a pay channel. It can also monitor the number and duration of channels viewed by the subscriber. If you change your address, you may have to go in for a new MSO who covers your new location.

Advantages of CAS
Under CAS, viewers can watch only the channels they like. Subscribers shall not pay for unnecessary channels anymore. Optic fiber will provide better transmission. The cable operators will no longer have any control over the pricing of channels.

It benefits broadcasters as CAS will eliminate under declaration of subscribers by cable operators and thus reduce their losses. With CAS, they can find out the exact number of subscribers with a cable operator.

Even the government will be able to collect entertainment tax and stop evasion.

Cable TV operators need to pay a part of the subscription fees to the broadcasters only for the actual number of end users who opt for the channel. This allows operators to price their channels according to their popularity.

It will give far more accurate indicator of programme popularity.

Direct To Home Television

DTH is defined as the reception of satellite programmes with a personal dish in an individual home. The DTH service provider shall install Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), which is portable.

DTH was first allowed in FY01. The new policy requires all operators to set up earth stations in India within 12 months of getting a license.

Dish TV was the first to start DTH operations in India (current subscriber base 1.38 mn). Recently, Tata Sky has entered the market. Bharti group, ADAG and Sun group will follow by the end of the year. Govt owned DD-Direct Plus comes at a one-time cost of Rs 2,000-2,500. DTH providers claim high quality transmission, which makes TV viewing a pleasant experience

DTH versus Cable TV
Cable TV is through cable networks and DTH is wireless, reaching direct to the consumer through a small dish and a set-top box. Government has ensured that free-to-air channels on cable are delivered to the consumer without a set-top box.

Besides, the monthly subscription cost for DTH and CAS on cable will vary. While you can opt for a number of channels in CAS, under DTH you have a limited choice depending on the package you opt for.

In DTH, TV channels would be transmitted from the satellite to a small dish antenna mounted on the window or rooftop of the subscriber's home. So the broadcaster directly connects to the user.

DTH can also reach the remotest of areas since it does away with the intermediate step of a cable operator and the wires (cables) that come from the cable operator to your house.

The services are pretty similar. The same amount of value-added services, whether it is movie-on-demand, video conferencing, EPG (Electronic Program Guide), choice, gaming, or quality and they are absolutely at par. DTH will not be to be a proper alternative to cable if the initial investment is more than that for cable.

Cable operator will also be able to provide broadband internet services over the cable whereas DTH cannot provide broadband. On the other hand, DTH offers superior quality images and sound such as stereophonic sound effects.

Key negatives of Cable:
You are still dependent on the local cablewallah and his whims and fancies.

In case of power failure at the local operator's end, you will not get the signals.

In case the cable gets cut or damaged somewhere, you will not have any signal.

Key negatives of DTH:

No individual channels to choose from as yet. Consumers have to pay for bouquets of channels

Signal problems during heavy rains. DVD quality is not there in all the channels.

DTH operators may hike their fees arbitrarily.

There could be illegal redistribution of DTH feed through multiple distribution units, amounting to evasion of tax.

After giving a thorough introduction of what DTH and Cable is all about, we leave the decision of choosing one of them to you. We will come up with some more articles to help you gain more knowledge about the revolution that is currently brewing in the television industry.

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