Vinod Mirani | 05 Sep, 2023
A lot of people still use local cable networks for television as well
as for the Internet. I was the first one in the locality to avail of
the Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)-based Internet service
when it was brought to India by a company that is now defunct.
using the dial-up service, it was bliss. And this was before the
full-fibre broadband, also known as Fibre To The Primes (FTTP).
was a great experience initially till the time one could talk to the
engineers and technicians concerned in case of a hitch. Since the
service was one of its kind and good for the user, obviously, the
customer base grew.
This growth meant that the personalised
service was replaced by call centres and untrained technicians. The call
centre would promise you that the complaint would be attended to within
72 hours! 72 hours without the Net? Latest technology and all that is
fine, but the company probably did not understand what kind of business
they had got into.
Then came the more reliable FTTP. But the
service providers were the same. So, the same pattern followed when dish
TV entered. The same call centres, the promise of 72 hours and when a
complaint was attended to, the technicians were totally at sea on how to
solve the problem. You gave feedback and even if you wrote, "problem
not solved", the money was deducted from your account. This particular
dish service collected payment in advance.
Another problem with
the dish, which occurred occasionally but was a major irritant, was the
phenomenon of signal breakdowns during heavy rains and thundershowers.
Nobody liked to miss an episode of a TV serial because the weather
inflicted disruption and your television went on a blink.
was back to a good neighbourhood service provider for both, cable as
well as Internet. One call and a guy would appear within minutes. For a
change, again, you knew who you were dealing with; the personal touch
In this process, as the hot-shot service providers took
their customers for granted, the ones to get abused and insulted were
the call centre kids. Few customers understood that these kids just took
your message and had nothing to do with your problem, nor could they
solve your problem.
Better technology pushes old technology out of
contention. Mobile phones and Internet data ousted link-up modems and
service providers such as VSNL. The video discs put paid to video
cassettes. Thousands of video libraries renting pirated video cassettes
went out of business. And then video discs lost out to satellite-beamed
Now we have Over The Top (OTT) platforms
providing all the entertainment you can imagine and beyond, including
content from all over the world!
Thus far, the talk has only been
about how the OTT streaming platforms are affecting the film exhibition
business. But, if the Hindi film industry is suffering, it is not due to
OTT, because both Hollywood and films in South Indian and other
regional languages are sustaining well. The problem with Hindi films is
Yes, but OTT is proving to be detrimental for the survival of television channels.
fault lies solely with television channels. Take for example our
national news channels. What is national about them? These channels are
dedicated to national politics. Hardly do you see any news channel
discussing states and, for them, South India does not seem to exist.
I want to know what is happening in Maharashtra, I need to watch a
regional channel as also for the neighbouring states. Knowing about them
matters, especially in a season like the monsoon. Less said about the
prime-time debates the better.
These channels specialise in
bestowing the title of Political Analyst on all and sundry and that is
so funny! These channels break the news in the morning with all news
channels calling the news 'Exclusive' and 'We Broke It First'. The same
news is broken all through the day. Now, that is taking your viewer to
be a fool!
Coming to film channels, they have no content, nothing
new at all. English film channels, the half a dozen of them that
survive, are in a bad state. They show C-grade films over and over
again. Hindi film channels are surviving on dated content and dubbed
South Indian films, all repeated day after day.
Doordarshan in its heyday had more appeal and following than these
private channels do today. And, imagine what they charge you for
watching the same old trash! New films are rare and content is filled
with old Hindi and South Indian-dubbed films shown at regular intervals;
a couple of channels show English movies in Hindi when not showing
Chinese rerun. No wonder then that compared to the so-called national
channels, regional channels are doing much better. They have a captive
viewer base because they provide what one wants to watch.
channels enjoyed a great run, each bidding for a new film and that
drove the price of a new film high. There was also a system of
syndication whereby a channel which had acquired the rights of a new
film, premiered it on its channel and later rented it out to other
One can't blame OTT for the fall of movie channels. They
were losing out on viewers long before OTT caught the fancy of people
during and post the Covid-19 lockdown.
Earlier, the cable
operators charged you Rs 400-600 per month and provided all the channels
you wanted to watch. They even showed a new film the same day it was
released in cinemas! Then came TRAI directives.
carries a price tag (most of them don't give value for money) and most
of them have just one serial to offer you during prime time. TRAI
offered an a la carte option: choose your channels and pay only for
them. But most providers refuse to let you opt for a la carte. They even
charge more than the stipulated rates for channels.
order mandates you to pay Rs 160, which includes some free channels and
the service provider's fees. Almost all of these free channels are not
what you would want to watch. So they are forced on you.
are cancelling their cable subscriptions. A few channels you want to
watch are available online and there are a lot of links available for
you to catch channels aired from other countries as well.
buy a full channel package, it would cost you no less than Rs 10,000 or
more a year. Imagine how many OTT platforms you can subscribe to for
that amount! One also has the option to opt for a certain mobile phone
package which provides some OTT connections for free.