Despite the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) allowing cable and direct-to-home (DTH) subscribers freedom to only pay for channels they choose, their annual bill will still be higher compared to the bouquet of same channels they had opted for before the regulator came out with the new regulatory framework.
Trai’s new framework for cable operators and broadcasters ensures subscribers can choose their favourite channels and pay only for the selected ones. The migration of TV subscribers to the new regime is underway with the regulator providing a deadline of March 31, 2019 (extended from December 28, 2018 and February 8, 2019 earlier).
Separate reports by economic policy think tank ICRIER and ratings agency Icra state that monthly bill of subscribers will rise post the new tariff order. Another ratings agency, Crisil too, in a report in February, said the new regulatory framework is expected to increase the monthly TV bills of majority of subscribers by around 25%.
ICRIER report says the new tariff order has increased channel prices for staple channels across broadcasters.
“Average price for SD channels before the order was Rs 5.56 (per month) and it has now increased to Rs 6.05 (per month). Channels with inelastic demand, such as those providing general entertainment, movies and sports content have increased by over 100% in several cases. Premium content and HD channels have seen a price cut. Average price of HD channels before the order was Rs 48.2 and it has now declined to Rs30.60,” it revealed.
Given the complexity involved in implementing the order, there have been several iterations in the pricing decisions of broadcasters. Since the announcement of the new order, broadcasters have revised the rate for 83 individual channels and 33 bouquet packs. Around 132 new bouquets have been added by broadcasters, the report said.
“Trai’s intent is noble to provide affordable à la carte channels to consumers and a transparent display of rates by broadcasters on an electronic programme guide such that stakeholders across the value chain are benefitted. Although not intended, the order gives broadcasters the power to set retail prices for channels, both à la carte and bouquet.” ICRIER added.
It also said that the outcome for households watching multiple profiles of channels will be ambiguous as consumers having to select from a set of almost 800 channels may face inconvenience and ‘post-choice dissatisfaction’.
Icra, in its report, too said that the regime change will put pressure on subscribers pockets. It added that broadcasters have strategically priced their content, with prime and popular channels being largely priced at the highest Rs19 per month.
“Any subscriber who wishes to view two or more of popular general entertainment channels and sports channels is likely to either witness an increase in monthly bill by 13-23% or a substantial reduction in number of pay channels to be viewed,” Icra vice-president Sakshi Suneja said.
She added that while earlier, a monthly budget of Rs 230-240 could give subscriber access to 250-300 channels, the same budget will now fetch only three GECs and one sports channel, in addition to FTA channels.
“Subscribers, can however, lower their monthly bills by upto 15%, if they opt for only sports, news and movies channels, a choice which was not available in the previous tariff regime. This would eventually lead to better selection of channels and focus on content quality,” Suneja noted.
Icra expects channel bouquets to dominate the subscription patterns, given their continued attractiveness and discounted pricing (by 40-50%) vis-a-vis a-la-carte channel prices. Multi-TV connections are likely to go down as monthly bills for these connections have gone up.