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Cable operators want fair pricing, oppose broadcaster bundles

The All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF), representing cable operators across India, has submitted a strong response to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) consultation paper on ‘Review of Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting and Cable Services’.

Among other issues discussed in the submission, AIDCF has expressed concerns on ceiling on discounts offered on bundled channels or bouquets.

The AIDCF argues that the current system, allowing broadcasters to heavily discount bundled channels compared to individual channel prices, stifles consumer choice and hurts smaller broadcasters.

The AIDCF claims broadcasters pressure cable operators to carry unpopular channels in bouquets by offering deep discounts. This forces consumers to subscribe to channels they don’t want.

“Further, by providing huge discounts on the bouquets, they discourage DPOs from procuring the a-la-carte channel and further sell the channels in the form of bouquets. This way, the broadcasters push the subscription of channels which are otherwise not required by consumers just to earn advertisement revenue on such channels. Further, by providing huge discounts on the bouquet vis a vis ala-a-carte they push all such channel free of cost without paying any carriage charges,” they said in their submission.

AIDCF has also highlighted that broadcasters avoid paying carriage fees for unpopular channels by bundling them with popular ones. This reduces revenue for cable operators.

“All this is done against the licensing framework. The license granted by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to the TV channel operator neither allows them to sell their channels to consumer directly nor allow the creation of bouquets. They are supposed to sell/provide each of their channels on individual (a-la-carte) basis to the DPOs only,” reads an excerpt from their submitted comment.

The body also advocates for proposed solutions that includes completely banning broadcasters from offering discounts on bundled channels. This would force broadcasters to lower individual channel prices, potentially making a-la-carte subscriptions more attractive.

The other solution according to AIDCF is to reduce the discount cap.

“If the authority feels that the creation of bouquets by broadcasters needs to be continued for the ease of consumer in subscription process, then the discount of 45 percent should be reduced to zero. This will help the broadcaster to reduce the ala-a-carte price by 45 percent and also provide flexibility to DPOs and consumers to opt for either a-la-carte or bouquets without being worried about the huge price difference between the two,” they said.

TRAI is currently reviewing responses to the consultation paper. The final decision will determine how cable television channels are priced and bundled in India, impacting both consumers and broadcasters. StoryBoard18

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