Come February 1, pick & pay for channels you want
- A deadline to bring about a far-reaching change in access and pricing of channels quietly lapsed on December 29
- TRAI has now granted time till January 31 to satellite and cable TV operators to introduce a new pricing and channel-selection system
- The new system will free viewers from having to pay for a set of channels in a bouquet or pack
The new system will free viewers from having to pay for a set of channels in a bouquet or pack and will introduce the option for them to subscribe and pay for only their chosen individual channels or à la carte. Packs and bouquets of channels will still be on offer but the viewer will not be obliged to buy channels only in packs. On paper, the option of subscribing to single channels exists even today but service providers (cable operators and DTH players) bundle channels.
Trai fixes maximum price per channel at 19
The subscription price of channels that broadcasters submitted to Trai in December are substantially lower than those listed by DTH and cable operators on their websites. In some cases, the proposed prices are 4-5 times lower than the listed prices.
Comparing prices of existing and proposed systems is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Bouquets became the default option because individual prices for popular channels were high — as much as Rs 60 per month in some cases. In the new regime, Trai has fixed an upper ceiling of Rs 19 per channel.
Trai believes the new system will prompt broadcasters to price individual channels “realistically and transparently”. But in doing so it could also trigger a disruption in channel distribution, currently controlled by satellite TV companies (e.g. TataSky, Dish, Airtel) and cable TV companies like Hathaway and Den.
Trai secretary SK Gupta told TOI that service providers have been instructed to offer consumers transparent options on channel selection. “It could be through an app, or website, or through a call-centre. In case a consumer faces any problems in migration to the new system, she can complain to a nodal officer designated by the service provider.”