The new tariff order of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will come into effect from February 6 but the viewers in tier three and four towns still haven't been properly able to comprehend the new channel packages being offered by broadcasters and operators.
Experts feel that the inability of LCOs to initiate a proper communication with consumers about the regime may cause a loss to broadcasters as there's a higher chance of paid channels being dropped. Broadcasters have been running a full-fledged campaign to educate the consumer but one-to-one contact from the LCO side is missing in the hinterland.
Under the new regime, viewers have the option of paying only for channels they want to watch and can drop others from their list. The consumers can select their choices by visiting the website of TRAI, DPOs or MSOs. The consumers can also visit their LCOs and ask for selection forms. However, according to industry sources, LCOs in a certain market are not even ready with the selection forms that are supposed to be given to the consumer.
“In the end, consumers will speak to their local operators and not the MSOs, which is why it is important for LCOs to approach consumers and explain them about the new framework. That exercise is not yet done by all the LCOs; while some cable operators have started the transitions, others are lagging,” the expert said.
There are some LCOs that believe TRAI will grant extension as there can’t be a blackout. The leading broadcasters also believe that there won’t be a blackout of the channels as there will be an outrage among consumers. However, the authority body has stated that the process of migration will begin from February 1 as decided. The authority has offered a week period for the completion of the process. Post February 6, the authority has stated that consumers who have failed to provide their channel and bouquet choice will only receive FTA channels, whereas the pay channels will be switched off.
Why are LCOs not reaching out to viewers?
There are several reasons for LCOs' reluctance to the implementation. Some LCOs defer with the authority over the issue of revenue share and the 15% discount cap. According to the experts, some operators backed by a certain political party are opposing it just to make it into a political issue.
“Not everyone is opposing the order, in fact the majority believes that it is a good thing that has happened. The operators' issue is only with revenue share and 15% discount cap. Now some operators are opposing only to make it a political issue. With TRAI, there was enough consultation; almost four months period were given to operators to understand the order, but even then, now they are asking for more time. Everybody had to do it sooner or later, it is similar to what happened during DAS implementation. Hence, going on strike doesn’t make sense,” a cable operator said.
The operator also feels that it is not just LCOs but consumers are also not actively participating in this framework. “Now with the deadline approaching, some consumers have started approaching LCOs but still majority of consumers are not voicing their concerns or their choices. There is not enough response from the consumers,” the operator said.
Though there is a lag in communication between LCOs and consumers, the leading distributor claims that the LCOs and DPOs are ready for the migration. “TRAI is doing a great job, they are keeping a check on all MSOs on the daily development, regular updates are being sent. Operators have developed consumer apps, LCO apps and we have online portals where the consumer can select their choices. Everyone is now geared up to migrate,” the distributor said.