With the Telecom Regulatory Authority’s (Trai) new tariff order on pricing of TV channels coming into effect from February 1, DTH and cable operators have indicated an increase of around 30% in TV channel prices for consumers. The operators fear loss of subscribers with the tariff hike as with the growth of OTT channels, the trend of cord cutting may further accelerate.
Although the matter is set for a final hearing in the Kerala high court on February 8, sources said the cable TV operators have again approached Trai to stop the implementation of the tariff hike order till a consumer-friendly solution is found.
In November, Trai amended the new tariff order 2.0 as part of which it restored the MRP of a TV channel to be a part of a bouquet to Rs 19 from Rs 12 earlier. While continuing the forbearance on MRP of TV channels, Trai allowed the broadcasters to offer a maximum discount of 45% while pricing the bouquet of pay channels over the sum of MRPs of all the pay channels in that bouquet.
Also read: Oyo reports Rs 182 cr in adjusted Ebitda in H2FY23 as its nears end of ‘first profitable year’
“Trai knows about the condition of the cable TV operators who have been continuously losing subscribers owing to DD Free Dish and OTT players. It should not have adopted such an approach which is loaded in favour of the broadcasters,” a local cable TV operator said.
“Broadcasters like Sony, Zee and others already have their own OTT platforms, and a tariff hike will help them sideline the local cable TV operators as the consumers will shift directly to their OTT platforms,” the operator added.
During the consultation on the subject last year, the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) said that the cable television industry is facing subscriber churn of 2.5% per month, which will further increase with the implementation of the new tariff order. Further, going forward the cable TV industry expects about 150,000 people losing their jobs owing to continuous business loss.
Also read: The critical role of skilling women entrepreneurs
According to sources, in a letter dated January 25 to Trai, the cable federation said the regulator is showing undue haste in passing on the high TV channel prices despite the assurance that the price of the channels would not be increased for the consumer. Further, it is not giving required time to the distributors to conduct the surveys and accordingly formulate bouquets and retail price of channels.
“This initiative will certainly trigger an (substantial) increase in price for the consumer, thus precipitating a death-knell-kind-of situation for the sector. Therefore, we humbly request the authority that it may stay the deadline of this implementation till such a time that a via-media is found to address consumer concerns or, in the alternative, allows for a 180-day window for implementation,” the federation said in the letter.
In its part, Trai has said that consumers can save up to Rs 40-50 on the network capacity fee (NCF) as every consumer can now get 228 TV channels instead of 100 channels earlier, in a maximum NCF of Rs 130. “Additionally, the amended NCF for multi-TV homes have enabled further savings to the consumers to the tune of 60% on second (and more) television sets,” Trai said in its order.
Last year, the local cable operators had urged the telecom regulator to regulate the over-the-top platforms and free dish services. They had also highlighted that broadcasters force them to sell those channels to consumers which are available free of cost.