The Mumbai cable TV market could be in for a fresh bout of instability with former IndusInd Media & Communications Ltd (IMCL) chief executive officer Nagesh Chhabria acquiring a local cable network. An entrepreneur even while in charge at IMCL, Chhabria has picked up 50 per cent stake in Mumbai-based Bhawani Rajesh Cable & Digitech Services, and has the option of hiking this up to 74 per cent.
The deal will allow Chhabria, who has operations in several towns of India, to enter the lucrative Mumbai market. Encouraged by a huge gathering of over 250 local cable operators (LCOs) assembled in Solapur for GroundPost’s digital summit, Chhabria broke the news of his new plans at the event.
“Entering the Mumbai market is part of a wider expansion plan we have chalked out. We have acquired 50 per cent stake in Bhawani Rajesh Cable and can go up to 74 per cent,” said Chhabria, the man who had led Hindujas’ cable TV operations till his resignation early this year. Chhabria has made the acquisition through his company Bhima Riddhi Digital Services (BRDS). Bhawani Rajesh Cable has seeded around 40,000 set-top boxes (STBs) in Mumbai. It also has an inventory of STBs which are yet to be deployed.
The small-sized independent MSO has installed Ericsson headend and seeded China’s Skyworth STBs. The company’s total investment is in the region of Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million). The Puri brothers—who founded Bhawani Cable and later diluted majority stake to Hathway Cable & Datacom—set up an independent headend outside the joint venture in partnership with Rajesh. The new company was called Bhawani Rajesh Cable & Digitech Services.
The Puris continue to own 12 per cent stake in Hathway Bhawani Cabletel & Datacom. Chhabria has also sealed a deal with the Maharashtra Cable Operators Federation (MCOF) which will enable last mile owners (LMOs) to launch cable virtual networks operation (CVNO). Bhawani Rajesh Cable will offer its digital headend in Mumbai to the LMOs and Chhabria’s expertise will be used to stitch content deals with broadcasters.
The LMOs will invest in the set-top boxes (STBs) and pay a fee to Bhawani Rajesh. “We have signed a deal with Chhabria’s outfit. The arrangement is that we pay a fee fixed per STB, per channel. We will be launching CVNO for the LMOs,” said MCOF president Arvind Prabhoo.
Chhabria runs cable TV networks in the towns of Karnataka (Hubli-Dharwad, Haveri, Davangere, Raichur, Bagalkot and Bidar), Maharashtra (Solapur, Jalgaon and Sawantwadi), and in pockets of Goa and Gujarat border.