Mumbai: Members of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), a grouping of television channels, may stop subscribing to viewership data provided by TAM Media Research temporarily in the four cities where the government has mandated that digital cable systems be put in place before 31 October.

TV viewers in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai have to shift to digital cable systems from analogue ones before 31 October, according to the information and broadcasting ministry’s diktat. Those who don’t meet the deadline face a blackout.

“The shift from analogue to digital system will lead to volatility in the viewership data," IBF president Man Jit Singh, also the chief executive of Multi Screen Media Pvt Ltd (which runs the Sony Entertainment channel among others), said in an interview to Mint . “To avoid compromising viewership data provided by TAM, members of IBF are considering unsubscribing to the data in the four markets only for some period of time." He added that the details are yet to be worked out.

Multisystem operators (MSOs or large cable operators) and local cable operators (LCOs) have been instructed to switch off television signals starting 1 November if their consumers have not migrated from analogue to digital format by installing set-top boxes, implying that consumers who do not do so will not be able to watch TV programmes beyond 31 October.

“All cable operators will switch off the signals in the four metros on 1 November if the shift to digital is not made by the consumer," said K. Jayaraman, managing director and chief executive of Hathway Cable & Datacom Ltd.

TAM has been reporting digital TV home viewing data since 2008, when digitization crossed threshold levels in some TV-viewing markets. TAM currently reports data from non-cable and satellite households and two types of C&S (cable and satellite) households — digital C&S and analogue C&S.

A spokesperson for TAM Media Research said: “TAM will only be reporting digital TV viewing data and non-C&S TV viewing in the DAS implemented areas of the four Cities. Data from homes in the non-municipal corporation area of the cities (which does not fall under Phase I of DAS implementation) will continue to be reported as usual. We will be sending out a formal communication to our clients in the coming few days spelling out the details."

According to TAM’s January 2012 TV baseline report, almost 35% of all India C&S homes have already adopted digital cable systems. The information and broadcasting ministry aims to convert all analogue television households into digital viewing homes by December 2014.

“Most broadcasters are in talks with TAM not to provide viewership ratings data from analogue regions in the four metros post the 31 October deadline, until the TV viewing homes shift from analogue to digital," Rahul Sood, head of network distribution and affiliates sales at broadcaster NDTV Ltd, said at the India Digital Operators Summit in Goa last month.

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