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Trai: share content, don’t be exclusive

03-November-2004
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Trai: share content, don’t be exclusive

• Philippines is perhaps the only country where it is mandatory for every pay TV channel to be available across all distribution platforms.

• In the US, channels owned by vertically-integrated media companies (owners of both channels and distribution platforms) must be available to all platforms.

• In the UK, only some sport events cannot be treated as exclusive content.

• Japan, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Mexico have no ‘must-provide’ norms.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), it is learnt, studied the global scenario before making its controversial recommendation: that DTH providers must go in for non-discriminatory sharing of content across all distribution platforms. Trai chairman Pradip Baijal says there’s no room for exclusivity of content to prevent restrictive trade practices. And that globally, market forces determine the carriage of channels in most regions.

“Regulations for anti-trust, anti-discrimination policies take care of issues of monopolistic and restrictive trade practices,” according to an industry source.

Media Partners Asia, a Hong Kong-based research and consulting firm, says Zee’s DTH operation Dish TV would benefit from the ‘must-provide’ recommendation.

Interestingly, exclusivity of content rarely exceeds 20%. “It’s that bit of exclusivity which drives a platform,” as an official from an Indian broadcasting firm puts it. Referring to the US direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting scene, he said: “Market forces ensure spread of channels to all platforms. Only 10-15% channels are exclusive, bringing in the competitive edge.” DirecTV DTH platform in the US, for example, has only 14% exclusive channels (24 channels), while it shares 152 channels with other platforms.

Among others, UK’s Sky platform has 18.8% exclusivity of channels. In Australia, Foxtel and Austar have 10% exclusivity of channels; while Optus TV is learnt to be a little ahead with 16% exclusivity.

Indian DTH players will obviously have to learn how to play this exclusivity card.

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