While Delhi and Mumbai kept their date with the October 31 deadline to switch over to a digital cable system, viewers in Chennai and Kolkata could still watch television in the analogue mode.
According to sources, hundreds of TV households in Delhi and Mumbai, where digital cable or direct-to-home connections were not installed, suffered blackouts at the stroke of midnight on October 31 as the process of moving to digital addressable system began.
Kolkata households in certain areas witnessed blackout of a few channels. But broadcast resumed with the backing of the Mamata Banerjee-led state government.
Chennai consumers have a breather at least till November 5, when the high court will hear a petition on whether or not to extend the deadline for digitisation.
Ashok Mansukhani, president of the MSO Alliance, said: "The whole process has been smoother than it was anticipated by many.
It has been a joint effort on the part of the ministry and multi-system-operators and other stakeholders. In the coming weeks, the greater challenge will be of giving effective and attractive choice within the regulatory framework to consumers."
Words of praise for the government also came from M G Azhar, COO of DEN Networks, an MSO.
"The beginning of the digitisation process has been extremely successful. It was very professional of the government to take all the stakeholders together. Now, it will definitely initiate the drive in other cities," Azhar told Business Standard.
Pat on government's back
With the broadcast blackout, he said, there would be an increase in the demand for set-top-boxes.
"Within 15-20 days, the remaining would also get the boxes.
A majority of multiple TV households had taken only one STB and were waiting to see if the blackout would actually happen.
Now, they will also opt for connections. Also, there might be piracy in some areas, which MSOs and broadcasters will take care of," Azhar added.
In Kolkata, the industry estimates about 800,000 cable TV customers are yet to switch to DAS.
Of the 2.3 million cable connections in the city under nine MSOs and about 5,000 operators, 1.5 million connections have got STBs.
"As far as our company is concerned," said Suresh Sethia, director of Siti Cable, one of the largest MSOs in the city, "we still have about 150,000 more STBs lying with our operators for installation, while we have given it to 700,000
While all the nine MSOs in the city have got digitalisation licences, availability of STBs was still a concern for them.
Earlier this month, Banerjee had asked the Centre to extend the deadline for digitisation as MSOs were saying there was a 40-50 per cent shortage in availability of STBs.
However, operators on Thursday said single-television homes had been covered and homes with multiple TV sets were pending.
The state government has requested the MSOs to continue analogue services as a blackout would affect the common man.
Chennai awaits HC verdict
Local cable operators in Chennai have said at least three million STBs would be required to meet the digitisation mandate in the city.
According to the Chennai Metro Cable TV Operators Association, there are only around 164,000 active STBs in the city till the end of October, while the number of subscribers in Chennai was around four million.
"We have submitted to the court that there are hardly any stocks of STBs in the city and switching over to the digitised mode would affect a majority of the subscribers in the city and would be against the interest of the public," said Johnson D Kennedy, president of the Association.
Chennai requires around three million STBs, while MSOs have around 15,000 units, said Kennedy.
"Even yesterday, one of our members has booked 200 boxes from one MSO, which asked a delivery period of 14-21 days to fulfil the orders."
In Tamil Nadu, there were only two MSOs earlier -- Sumangali Cable Vision and Jack Communications.
Now there are six MSOs, including some formed by groups of LCOs.
The state-run Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd, which recently launched its control room in Chennai, continue to offer both analogue and digital services.
Sumangali Cable Vision and Jack Communications have announced the price of STB at Rs 1,350 and Rs 1,100, respectively, while Arasu Cable is yet to announce its STB price.
The prices of the boxes depend on the supplier of the product and features.