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The television industry is seeing a flurry of activity with two multi-system operators (MSOs) going for initial public offerings (IPOs). DEN Networks, promoted by Sameer Manchanda, who is also the joint managing director of IBN18, is hitting the street this week to raise Rs 400 crore. Rajan Raheja-promoted Hathway Cable has filed its draft red herring prospectus, and is looking to garner Rs 600 crore.

The ‘cable-wallah', though crucial to television, has long been looked upon derisively as the seamy backwaters of the entertainment industry.

Not without reason. The history of cable distribution is replete with gang wars over turf and shady alliances. Faced with tough competition from DTH (direct-to-home), the cable industry has slowly shed its past and attempted to corporatise. For instance, DEN Networks has expanded with a focused policy of acquisition — it acquired as many as 77 small cable operators over two years.

These IPOs will hopefully bring in cleaner practices and further consolidate an industry that once boasted 30,000 cable operators. With low margins and erratic collections, most of these MSOs have been losing money. With better business practices, there seems to be hope now.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 09-11-2009)