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DTH, cable TV players clash as TRAI mulls new norms to ‘improve’ competitiveness

Cable TV operators and Direct-To-Home players are at loggerheads over a proposal by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to bring in new regulations aimed at improving competitiveness in the market.

Top DTH operators such as Tata Sky and Bharti Telemedia argue that regulations should be brought in for a level-playing field between DTH and cable TV operators.

On the other hand, cable operators say there is no need for any regulation as there is ample competition in the sector.

“We would like to highlight that it is pertinent to ensure a level-playing field among players in the cable TV and DTH markets, especially when it comes to regulatory parity,” said Bharti Telemedia in their submission to TRAI.

“Cable TV currently carries a lot of local content or some channels in some areas that are not approved channels from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in many regions. This is leading to other platforms like DTH not being able to compete,” added Bharti Telemedia.

‘Not monitored’
DTH operator Tata Sky also noted that “cable TV is not closely monitored as DTH, leading to unhealthy completion and insecurity in the market”.

Eligibility criteria
Tata Sky said that while there is no eligibility criteria for cable operators, DTH players have to comply with many regulations. Tata Sky argued that there is a significant disparity in the treatment being meted out to DTH operators when compared to other operators. Therefore, “restriction on DTH should be done away with, or should be applicable to all”, argued Tata Sky.

However, cable operators believe that with a proliferation of a wide variety of mediums to distribute television services, DTH operators’ argument of monopoly in the market falls flat.
“Presently, there is stiff competition in the sector among multiple-system operators (MSOs) and alternate distribution platform operators (DPOs) like DTH, IPTV players and HITS operators, and the platforms of Free Dish and unlicensed/unregulated OTT platforms.

“Availability of content, including linear channels across all the aforesaid mediums and platforms, has ensured that the consumer is no longer obligated to subscribe to cable television services from MSOs only,” said Siti Cables. Thus, they concluded that there is ample competition in the distribution sector and that monopoly does not prevail in the distributing industry.

“It is, therefore, verily established that there exists no monopoly/market dominance as the presence of so many players in the market provides effective and alternate choices to the consumers at competitive prices/tariffs,” echoed Hathaway.

Subscriber base
According to TRAI data for May-June 2021, the subscriber numbers of major MSOs and DTH operators were 4.77 crore and 6.98 crore, respectively. This translates to a 41 per cent market share for cable TV and 59 per cent market share for DTH operators. The Hindu BusinessLine

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