Broadcasters fear TRAI consultation paper on tariff might dash festive season hopes

Industry experts say TRAI’s recent observations on tariff-related matters could force least popular channels to shut shop

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Aug 22, 2019 8:15 AM Updated: Aug 22, 2019 4:28 PM

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A consultation paper on tariff-related matters issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with respect to broadcasting and cable services has left several broadcasters worried. While some see hopes from the upcoming festive season being dashed, others say that the channels lower down in the popularity scale are surely going to take a beating.

Speaking to exchange4media, an industry expert said: “The discussions are on and this has not become a law. We have to wait and see what happens next. But yes, if the consultations come into effect, the budget of broadcasters for good content will take a beating.”

The expectations for a better second half, thanks to the festivals, might take a beating now, the expert said. “As per reports, 10 to 12 million subscribers have already been lost in the last couple of months. The television adex has been impacted too."

A senior executive of a leading broadcast network pointed out that the least popular channels might have to be shut down if the consultations come into effect. “It will affect broadcasters and DPOs because the least popular channels will go out of the frame. They are anyway hurt by advertising sales because they are losing out on reach and viewership, which is why these kind of discounts are being offered by the broadcasters and DPOs.”

“In rural areas, you can’t be keeping the same price. It has to be differential pricing. Somebody in Delhi can probably pay Rs 19 but in the rural areas where the per capita income is less I don’t think you can charge the same rates,” the industry head said.

There have been several complaints from consumers about the cable bills not coming down despite the new tariff regime and promises made by TRAI, the executive said. “Broadcasters have made packages where you get to watch three to four important channels, but end up paying more. That has hurt the order which TRAI had thought would go in the benefit of the consumers. So they are looking at rationalising the system further.”

The official also pointed out that the second or third TV connections of a household have not come back. So if a household earlier had 2 to 3 connections, they have now decided to activate only one. The rest have either moved to Free Dish or OTT platforms.

In the consultation paper issued on Friday, TRAI has observed that under the new regulatory framework, broadcasters are offering bouquets at a discount of upto 70 per cent of the sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels constituting those bouquets. “It indicates that in absence of any restriction on the discount on the offering of bouquets, broadcasters are making prices of a-la-carte channels illusory thereby impacting the a-la-carte choice of channels by consumers,” the paper read.

The regulatory body also observed, “It was expected that broadcasters will consider requirements of consumers and make bouquets of those channels which are demanded by the subscribers. However, post implementation analysis of new regulatory framework indicates that freedom given to broadcasters has been misused.”

In the consultation paper, the authority has sought reactions from stakeholders on 27 questions. These include suggestions for re-introduction of 15 per cent cap on discount, limiting the number of bouquets offered by broadcasters and DPOs, review of the ceiling of Rs 19 on MRP of a-la-carte channels to be part of a bouquet and more.

The broadcasters can now only wait and watch as to how this issue will pan out.

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