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TRAI for the (consumer’s) win: Let users pay for what they want to watch on TV

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has prepared a new regulatory framework to ensure the orderly growth of the Broadcasting and Cable Services sector. As per the new tariff order, users will be able to choose channels that they want to watch. The order takes effect from December 29th.

TRAI issued a press release about the increase in prices and reiterate that the implementation of the new regulatory framework will lead to better pricing and greater transparency. It bases this on the data provided by BARC according to which “more than 90% of TV Homes flip 50 or lesser number of channels.” Therefore, it believes that any analysis that keeps 250 or more channels for pricing of monthly tariff will create a false impression. The TRAI believes that if a consumer chooses the channel s/he really watches, then s/he will pay a lesser amount.

The new tariff framework

Slamming the misinformation around the comparison between the comprehensive bouquet prices of the previous regime with the a-la-carte prices under the new regime, the TRAI provided a detailed pricing structure.

  • TRAI has prescribed the 100 channels for Rs 130. These do not include channels like Star, Zee and Sony which recently came out with channel pricing.
  • Any subscriber who opts for more than 100 channels can choose additional channels in each slab of 25 channels and will have to pay Rs 20 per slab.
  • The consumer can choose pay-channels of their choice on an a-la-carte basis or in form of bouquets made by broadcasters as well as the distributors.
  • The new framework provides information on Pay Channel pricing structure whereby no distributor can charge above MRP.
  • Subscribers may choose channels either in an a-la-carte, bouquet or both.
  • The MRP declared by the broadcaster would be available on the Electronic Program Guide of each distributor.
  • The TRAI also slammed misinformation that on the December 29th, which is the date of transition, there will be a total black-out of the channels.
  • Addressing LCOs fear of reduced earning, TRAI highlighted that the new framework will bring in a structure of assured revenue for multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operator (LCOs) under the network capacity fee. The list of registered MSOs in India can be access here.

LCOs will have the flexibility to negotiate their revenue share with MSOs as per the structure provided under Model Interconnection Agreement (MIA). While the MIA enables MSOs and LCOs to have a mutual agreement in a structured manner in line with the regulatory framework, the Standard Interconnect agreement (SIA) provides standard terms and conditions prescribed by the regulation that can be adopted by MSOs & LCOs for retransmission of TV signal, if they fail to mutually agree on MIA.

Sneha adds: TV watchers must be rejoicing at this stage. Cable and broadcasting operators have, for the longest period, bundled so many channels (mostly ones that people don’t watch) under packaged systems for eye-watering prices. Before set top boxes and satellite TVs, it was the local cable operators who would decide what a user would watch. The TRAI has put that choice in the hands of the consumer, who will rightfully pay only for what he/she would like to watch.

Also read: TRAI seeks comments on the TV audience measurement and ratings consultation paper

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