The implementation of the new tariff regime by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which will allow viewers to pay only for the channels they watch, is leading to a lot of chaos as people aren't sure whether they would still keep getting the channels they like and whether their favourite channels will come at an extra cost.
As viewers are watching ads on TV about the new regime, they have no clarity about what to do next. While some local cable operators have started approaching their consumers, some are returning them saying they have not been approached by MSOs and broadcasters and will see what happens after the deadline of December 29.
BestMediaInfo.com spoke to several industry players to understand the steps a consumer needs to take to select their preferred channels. The cable operators and DTH platforms are already flashing the prices per channel.
What a consumer should do to select their preferred channels?
Each consumer must enquire their local cable service provider about the new rates. The cable operator will share the channel’s price list, as decided by the broadcasters, with the consumers. Firstly, the consumers will have to pay the fixed fee of Rs 130+taxes for the primary set of 100 channels. This set will mainly comprise free-to-air (FTA) channels and won’t include popular ones offered by major broadcasters.
For the popular channels, the consumer will have to refer to the price list. The cable operators will provide a form to the consumer on which they will have to select their preferred channels. The consumers will get billed according to their preference. For every additional 25 channels, the consumer will have to pay an additional Rs 20 as a network capacity fee.
For example, if a consumer views most of Star channels then he/she can opt for the bundle pack of Star channels. If the viewer also wants to add other channels, say Sony SAB, Zee Cafe or &Pictures among others, they can pick it from a la carte pricing. The base value pack of Star is at Rs 49 and offers 13 channels whereas the a la carte pricing of Sony SAB is Rs 19, Zee Cafe is Rs 15 and &Pictures is at Rs 10. So, the consumer will pay a fixed fee of Rs 130 + Rs 19 + Rs 15+Rs10+ network fee of Rs 20. The monthly bill for 16 channels will be around Rs 194 + taxes.
The new regime doesn’t provide the option of quarterly, half-yearly and annual subscription. The consumer will receive a monthly bill from the operators. The new regime offers consumers freedom to change or swap the channels every month.
Challenges in the implementation of new regime
As per TRAI, from December 29, the consumers will view only those channels they have selected. However, cable operators said they haven’t received enough enquiries from consumers as most of them were not aware of the new ecosystem.
“The DPOs are ready with the software and apps that will be required for the implementation of the new regime. But the amount of enquiries that we have received from consumers isn’t satisfactory. This being a festive month, most of the consumers have gone on long vacation, which is also why they aren’t informed and haven’t made an enquiry. Which is why we had requested TRAI to give time for a smooth transition to the new regime,” a cable operator said.
It is not just the consumer but even some of the local cable operators are not well-informed about the changes. A local cable operator from Mumbai said, “We haven’t received any guidelines on what to do or how to take this ahead. We just got the price list, I don’t know how to take it forward or how to explain it to the consumers.”
While some operators are clueless about the implementation procedure, there are cable operators from cities like Allahabad, Kolkata and Bangalore who are going door-to-door and making consumers aware of new regime.
A cable operator from Allahabad said, “We are doing our best to inform consumers. We are sending our agents to our consumers’ doors with the registration form. We are explaining them on what and how to select packs. There are challenges but with every new change, there will be some challenges. We have received responses from 50% of our consumers, the rest haven’t responded yet. They will respond once the channels start going off-air.”
Keeping the concerns of stakeholders in mind, TRAI, on December 27, gave a month for the smooth implementation of a new regulatory framework. The authority said that all existing packs/plans/bouquets will continue uninterrupted till January 31, 2019 and no service provider will disconnect any signal or feed to any MSO/LCO/subscriber till January-end.
Grievances of LCOs
Apart from the decreased consumer response, LCOs are also protesting against the unfair revenue share between MSOs and LCOs. Between MSOs and LCOs, the TRAI has kept a ratio of 55:45 as revenue share. In the basic pack of 100 FTA channels, which come at a price of Rs 130, MSOs get 55% share whereas local cable operators take home 45%. Whereas for the pay channels, the authority has kept 65% to 80% share for broadcasters whereas the remaining 20% will be shared between MSOs and LCOs.
“One of the main reasons behind the protest is the unfair revenue share. The hike in the monthly bill will hamper our business, also the proposed revenue share is unfair as we won’t be able to earn any profit. We want the revenue share for pay channels to be 60% between broadcaster and MSOs and 40% for LCOs,” the cable operator said.