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New tariff order: Decoding the new packs and pricing offered by broadcasters and operators

Will you save money on watching TV once the new tariff regime comes into play or will it cost more? How will the biggest disruption since the digitisation of set-top boxes change India's broadcasting industry? We decode the different packages and prices being offered by broadcasters and operators

‘The more things change, the more they remain the same.’ This saying may come true with the implementation of the new TV channel pricing or the new tariff order.

The new regime allows viewers to pay for channels they want to watch. But will the consumers gain or will they lose? How will new pricing impact the revenues of broadcasters and operators? Nobody has the answers.

Breaking it down for consumers, you can cut down on the cost of watching TV if you choose your channels judiciously.

But if you want to go for packages being offered by broadcasters, the pricing is more or less likely to remain the same as you're paying now or it could even cost more.

Following TRAI’s directive, broadcasters have offered several channel packages to attract and retain consumers.

While the new regime won’t have much of an impact on popular channels, it will definitely hurt the long tail channels. Hence, broadcasters are trying to put all their channels — popular and niche — on equal standing through these packages. The broadcasters have also offered a maximum discount on packages to attract consumers.

Breaking down the packs, pricing and FTAs

The packs offered by the broadcasters are divided into various brackets, but the primary division has been done on the basis of SD and HD channels. The broadcasters that have a presence across different regional markets have further divided their packs language-wise or region-wise.

For the past one month, top broadcasters such as Viacom18, Zee Entertainment Enterprise Limited and Sony Pictures Network have been toying with the bouquet prices. The broadcasters are offering different prices and different variations in their packs. Zee Entertainment Enterprise, which had initially offered a base value pack of Rs 45 (24 SD channels), slashed the price to Rs 39. 

When asked about the bundling strategy of the broadcasters, a leading distributor said they are still gauging the market. “Earlier Zee’s rate was a bit steep but now that they have recently brought it down to Rs 39, it is quite affordable. Zee is high on their regional content and in most of the markets, they are leaders. They have done a good thing by offering language-wise distribution and now that they have revamped the price, they have done a good job. I feel this will now prompt other broadcasters to look at the package pricing. So, I won’t be surprised if Indiacast and Sony cut down on the pricing.”

Speaking about their strategy while finalising the pricing on packs, Prathyusha Agarwal, CMO, Zeel, said, “The regime doesn’t allow breaking the broadcaster’s bouquet but allows consumers to choose a la carte channels along with the bouquet. We have made packs looking at what is the maximum consumption basket of different audiences. Instead of doing just three packs, we have created packs for every region focusing on their consumption basket.”

In terms of effective bundling, the distributor feels Star India has offered an attractive pack that might act as a game changer. Star India is the only major broadcaster that has stuck to its initial bouquet and pricing strategy. Star continues to offer broadly two packs — value and premium — and does not break out its English channels or Sports channels. 

The sports factor

When it comes to strategy, the placement of sports channels is playing an important role as it is one of the major factors that will attract consumers and distributors alike. While Star has offered sports channels in its base pack, Sony Pictures Network has broken its sports and English channels into different packs.

“Star India’s strategy of offering sports under the base pack will work on a mass level. But, the DTH company might want sports on the higher pack because they always charged high on sports. The way Star has done their packaging, I would say it is kind of a game changer as they would reach masses with it,” a leading distributor said.

But, according to experts, the network might have to re-evaluate as one broadcaster can’t have sports in the base while other on the premium pack. “Either both broadcasters should have it on base or both should offer it on the premium pack. I guess Sony is finding difficult as they are offering Rs 31 base and Rs 39 sport — the mass is going to go for Rs 31 so I guess Sony might lose on sports channels,” the expert said.

While Star India’s pack is the most attractive, Viacom18’s base pack is considered wholesome and a cheap bouquet as it offers GEC, kids, music and movie channels.

How operators are playing it

More than the bundling offered by broadcasters, it is important to look at what DTH, DPOs, MSOs and LCOs are offering as they are the ones who will be interacting with the consumer. 

Though majority players such as Airtel TV, Dish TV and Videocon among others have uploaded their revised pricing, Tata Sky was holding back following the petition filed in the Delhi High court. But on January 24, Tata Sky finally updated its website, reflecting the pricing for channels under the new guidelines. 

Tata Sky has detailed its FTA basic pack that will be available with all the free-to-air channels. The DTH operator has also listed all the channels along with their prices that will be provided to the users on an a la carte basis.

Dish TV has published a list showing the channel-wise pricing on its service. The operator has segregated the available channels on its network on the basis of genres such as English News, Hindi Movies, Lifestyle/ Fashion and Sports. While the list is populated with a large number of free-to-air channels, it includes various paid channels as well. There are packs such as Hindi HD Premium, Hindi HD Value, and Telugu Value from Star India; Times Bouquet 1 HD and Times Bouquet 2 HD from Times Network; Turner Family Pack and Turner Kids Pack from Turner International; and Happy India 31, Happy India Platinum, and Happy India HD from Sony Pictures Networks.

On the other hand, Airtel Digital TV is charging Rs 20 to Rs 22 per month for premium channels such as Star Sports, Sony and Zee Cafe. Airtel is also likely to follow Dish TV and bring newly formed packs from broadcasters such as Star Value and Sony Happy India. 

Additionally, Den Networks has listed monthly packs from various broadcasters such as Sun TV Network, Discovery and Disney. The packs start from as low as Rs 4 and go up to Rs 145. Similarly, Siti Cable has listed different packs that start from Rs 52 and go up to Rs 166.

According to an industry expert, majority of distributors were waiting for Tata Sky and Airtel to release their packaging so that if there is some revision to be done, they will do it. Speaking about the packaging offered by Hathway, Videocon and Dish TV, the leading distributor said, “Majority of DPOs has done the packaging keeping in mind the demand and the kind of channels consumer view. It is more dependent on the popularity and pricing of the channels. Also, they are recommended packages, not compulsory. It is only for the ease of the consumer so that they don’t have to sit and choose all the channels.”

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