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“Consumers want more from their subscriptions, even though they prefer bouquets” : BIF and CUTS study

Broadband India Forum (BIF) and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS International) released a Report based on a nation-wide survey of over 10,000 TV consumers to gauge consumer perception with respect to the choice enjoyed for TV channel selection and overall satisfaction.

Key findings of the study:

  1. TV is the most preferred mode of video content consumption: It is worth noting that an astounding 70% of the consumers surveyed felt that television offers a value-for-money proposition, as compared to a mere 27% in the case of digital/OTT platforms and barely 3% in the case of TV apps.
  2. Consumers prefer bouquets: Another telling find is that 54% of consumers surveyed avail of TV channels via bouquets/packages and another 35% do so via a combination of bouquets and individual channels. With an effective total of 89% of the consumers surveyed preferring bouquets, they become an overwhelmingly -preferred choice.
  3. Consumers want more from their subscriptions, even though they prefer bouquets: 40% consumers feel their subscriptions cater to the viewing needs of the entire family. Several consumers felt there is room for their levels of satisfaction to grow, as they want to watch other and new channels that they think they may like. There is need for ‘effective choice’ to be exercised by consumers.
  4. Pricing: Price is the most important factor for choosing TV package subscription for many consumers. Most consumers are subscribed to the basic package offered by the distributors which provide between 100-200 channels. The average charges paid by the consumers are between INR 200 and INR 400 for their subscriptions, on a monthly basis.
  5. Lack of awareness on how to select (or delete) channels and dependence on last-mile TV distributors: Several consumers (31%) claimed that they were unaware of the possibility of adding/removing TV channels from their subscription packages, 51% are not inclined towards adding/removing channels themselves, and only 43% of those who add/remove TV channels found the process convenient. A majority of consumers (60%) rely on manual process of adding or removing channels and require direct intervention from distributors.
  6. Lack of awareness of TRAI’s channel selector app: Around 75% consumers are unaware of the ‘channel selector app’ launched by TRAI in June 2020 to enhance consumer choice. This reinforces the need to improve efforts at capacity building of consumers on a priority basis.
  7. Consumers want better quality of service (QoS) at the last-mile: TRAI introduced QoS Regulations in 2017 that mandate itemized billing, fast and convenience grievance redressal, and assistance with Customer Premises Equipment. However, consumers believe that there is scope for improvement on these parameters. 1 in 5 consumers perceive decline in grievance redressal, assistance with Set Top Boxes (STBs), freedom to choose channels they want to watch, and an increase in number of advertisements. In fact, 3 out of 10 consumers claim to have never received an itemised bill. These are mandatory under the extant regulatory framework (See FAQs). Non-compliance with this framework is indicative of inadequate enforcement at the last-mile of distribution.

Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, said, “The study surveyed over 10,000 subjects across the country to capture the perception of TV consumers with respect to the choice they enjoy when it comes to channel selection and the satisfaction levels with the current choice available. The major findings indicate that there are gaps in the effective exercise of consumer choice as well as channel selection. Efforts to enhance consumer awareness around their rights as well as methods of channel selection are imperative. However, any further regulatory intervention should follow a detailed cost-benefit analysis.”

The report deduces that Indian consumers have high expectations from their TV subscriptions and bundles, and there is room for consumer welfare to grow if the next wave of regulatory reforms can narrow focus on how to enable effective consumer choice. The mismatch between consumer preferences and channel subscriptions could be minimised if: (a) there are many more efforts at raising consumer awareness (e.g. capacity building through regional consumer cells), and (b) consumers have greater say in deciding their bouquets.

To ensure that subscriptions reflect consumer choice, the charges for the ‘Network Capacity Fee’ (NCF – see FAQs), could be reviewed. Alternatively, a Network Access Fee (NAF) on a per channel basis could be considered in place of a flat charge for NCF. By this method, distributors could be incentivised for aiding consumers by providing suitable channels and bouquets of their individual choice.

The regulator could also support credible consumer organisations in generating awareness, building capacity, and acting as watchdogs for compliance with QoS, convenience in channel selection availability, quality of content, as well as viewing experience and quality of service.

T.V. Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum, said, “This independent and operator neutral study is perhaps the first of its kind in India, conducted across such a wide and diverse sample size and spread. There is also no evidence-based study till this, which captures the consumers’ perspective and level of satisfaction on TV viewership. In this regard, the study assumes great significance and relevance, especially in the present times, when the general notion is that Digital media & content is impacting the popularity of the legacy and linear TV. The report indicates possible areas for regulatory & policy focus to help in overall improvement of quality of services and consumer satisfaction.” BCS Bureau

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