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Will further extension for new tariff order leave broadcast industry in the lurch?

India's broadcasting industry is unsure whether it will be able to harness the full potential of growth during the elections, IPL and World Cup seasons due to the continued disruption because of the way TRAI has handled the implementation of its new tariff order. As the current deadline for March 31 approaches, industry sources believe that TRAI may extend it again in the wake of the upcoming elections

First December 29, 2018, then January 31, 2019, and again March 31. These were the deadlines set by TRAI for the full implementation of its new tariff order (NTO). With the March 31 deadline closing in, the broadcast industry is anxiously speculating whether this one would be final or there will be more extensions.

The industry has a lot on the stake due to the lack of a fool-proof plan and infrastructure for rolling out such a massive exercise, and it could be said looking at the state of abilities of LCOs to connect consumers, get their forms filled and then feeding their responses back into the system at their or DPO level, completing the full circle of implementation.

Either it is a DTH platform or a cable operator, the process of selecting the channels or a pack is not an easy and smooth experience for the consumer and a little dipstick will tell you how serious is the consumer about the migration to the new tariff regime.

While announcing the March 31 deadline, TRAI had noted that though the new framework promotes consumer choice and enables them to pay for what they wish to view, the 'non-exercise of the option' should not create any inconvenience. However, the authority expected that the extension will be used to generate awareness among the subscribers regarding the new regulatory framework.

Even if one were to estimate that this period has helped bridge the gap up to some extent and pushed more consumers to abide to the NTO, there is a large section that has not bothered to migrate or is still not made aware of the new regime. In this case, one can safely say that the deadline could be extended for the fourth time going by TRAI’s views that the 'non-exercise of the option' should not create any inconvenience.

“Elections will play an important role in pushing the deadline further as the government and TRAI will never take the risk of annoying consumers by disconnecting their television connections,” said an industry observer.

Any extension of the deadline further will make sure that consumers will continue to receive the signals of the channels in an uninterrupted manner but the broadcast industry will continue to face the burnt as the huge disruption in viewership will continue and there will be no clarity of the impact of NTO on the viewership.

A few marketers told BestMediaInfo.com that they were putting money in the blind spot during this roll-out period in the absence of stable viewership data. “Even as we continue to spend in the high-octane IPL, elections and World Cup seasons, we will do it on our gut, albeit with caution and at our own risk,” said an advertiser who spends big on television.

Another advertiser who has been advertising during IPL for several years told BestMediaInfo.com that Star Sports is not able to hike the ad rates because of the disruption created by NTO and that they will be able to propose any hike only after the stabilisation of viewership numbers.

Even as the industry is working, as usual, it is hard to say it will be able to harness the full potential of growth during the elections, IPL and World Cup seasons due to the continued disruption, which is most likely to be extended further. It will be interesting to see if TRAI and the government will bite the bullet and force the new regime with an iron hand or will give another extension to hide its lack of preparedness for the fourth time.



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