TRAI And IBF On Polar Ends Over DTH, Cable TV Regulations And Channel Bouquets

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been implying this since long that the channel broadcasters are offering massive discounts on the channel bouquets to make them have better traction as opposed to the individual channel selection. However, now in a new turn of events, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has refuted the claim made by the sector regulator that the broadcasters are not doing any such move. It is also worth noting that the claim made by Trai is also the basis of its consultation paper which it has floated in the industry recently for comments by the industry stakeholders and other experts on the issues of the new tariff regime. In its reply to the Trai consultation paper, IBF noted that only 1 channel pack out of the 331 others being offered by top five broadcasters has a discount higher than 65%. Also, there are 15% of bouquets which have a discount of less than 35%. 66% of the channel bouquets have a discount which is less 50%.

IBF Argues in Favour of Subscribers Selecting Channel Packs

It is worth noting that IBF is the topmost body which represents the pay-TV broadcasters in India. In its comments, IBF said that the bundling of TV channels has in fact been good for the TV channel subscribers in India as it has brought better “value for money” to them. Also, the ad-revenue has allowed the broadcasters to stop the pass-through of content costs to the subscribers, which in other cases would be much more. As per IBF, the subscribers are currently enjoying the channels for as low as 81% cost because of the bundling of channels.

TRAI Targets Bundling of Channel Packs in its NTO Review

The telecom regulator has started looking into the potential methods by which it can patch up the new Trai tariff regime, and since August, during its review of the national tariff order, the regulator remarked that the broadcasters are controlling the market discovery of channels by bundling channel together and giving huge discounts on the channel bouquets. Trai had also noted that there were certain channel packs in the market that were available with up to 70% discount as compared to the a-la-carte price of the same channel selection.

The IBF has been on polar ends of this issue as it believes that the bundling of channels into channel packs has a positive result. It offers better service to the subscribers of DTH and cable TV, alongside providing consumer choice, variety and novelty in channel selection. Trai had said that it expected the consumers to choose only the channels which they watch, to which IBF replied that since Indian households have mostly a single TV for all the family members, hence the channel selection is made keeping all the members in mind. There was also the issue of a very large number of channel bouquets being present in the market, to which the IBF replied that it because of separate HD and SD bouquets.

Subscribers Still Leaning Towards Channel Bouquets

IBF also noted “The DTH subscriber base has grown more rapidly post the NTO rollout, at an annualised rate of 12% in the first six months. And this is largely because of the better customer service provided by DTH, even though the pricing is now exactly the same as it is for the cable ecosystem.” It also added that the sum of all a-la-carte channels has decreased as compared to the previous tariff regime, and even then, the subscribers are choosing channel bouquets, thus showing the preference of the Indian TV audience. The IBF has also urged the sector regulator to refrain from making any hasty changes in the new tariff regime as it has not yet fully settled down.―Telecom Talk

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