TRAI notification: advantage cable ops for present?

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today came out with its first order through a notification --- freezing the rates at which the charges for a cable service is given as on 26 December --- adding a new twist to the chaotic situation prevailing in the broadcast and cable industry.

It has also not tried to put any speed-breakers on the way of CAS rollout, contrary to the fears of the cable fraternity, and has said that it would wait for Delhi high court to take a final view on the issue of addressability

"To bring some certainty in the rates prevailing for these (cable) services, it was considered necessary by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to intervene in the matter. The TRAI has, therefore, deemed it appropriate to specify as ceiling the rates at which the charges will be paid by the cable subscribers to cable operators, by the cable operators to multi service operators and by multi service operators to broadcasters, as those prevailing on 26 December 2003 with respect to both free-to-air channels and pay channels, and for both CAS and non-CAS areas," a TRAI notification states.

It further adds that this intervention will continue until a final determination by the regulator on the various issues involved.

The confusion stems from the fact that as freezing of rates of cable services is open to interpretation. It raises the question whether a demand in increase in connectivity (as done by Star India) would also be frozen as of 26 December. Certain channels have claimed that they have not increased their rates, but have slashed them. However, the reduced price is available only those cable ops and MSOs who increased their declared subscription base, which, in effect, is tantamount to a rate hike as the outflow of the cable industry to broadcasters would increase under this formula.

This was evident in how Star India COO Sameer Nair saw the development. "We have to study the TRAI order, but on the face of it, I don't think the order would effect us. Rather, we have reduced the prices of Star channels (from Rs 30 to Rs 27)," he told

Zee Telefilms vice-chairman and head of Siti Cable, Jawahar Goel, offers a counter view. According to him, if TRAI is speaking about freezing of rates, then it makes no sense as an MSO's outflow would increase because of the demand of increased declaration in subscriber base. If TRAI is talking about a freeze in the charges, which would include an upped subscriber base, then it would indicate that the "regulator has managed to rein in the pay broadcasters." He added: " Still, clarifications would be needed on what actually TRAI is trying to say."

One industry player however, saw no confusion in the TRAI ruling. HTMT group director and CTO KV Seshasayee under whose charge InCableNet also falls, expressed "relief that the regulator has acted very quickly."

Queried as to what was the satus of deals that had been reached with the different broadcasters for 2004, Seshasayee said they stodd invalidated. Payment terms would have to be based on agreements that were in existence as on 26 December 2003, Seshasayee said.

SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta had this to say: "I still need to study the implications of the order. But I do hope that the freezing of rates is not an indefinite one. However, I am sure there is a logic to what the TRAI is doing. We'll just have to wait and watch."

And what does TRAI chairman Pradip Baijal has to say on this issue?

Steering clear of this new debate that has been sparked off, maybe unwittingly by TRAI, Baijal said, "We have started a consultation process on various issues. I did not want a change in the status, including rates (of cable service) till I have taken a final view on the matter."

He also said that TRAI cannot put a stop to CAS rollout or take any decision as a case relating to addressability is pending in the Delhi HC. So, can the cable ops and MSOs push ahead with CAS in South Delhi after a lull. "I suppose so," the TRAI chief replied.

Further, what could have caused immediate confusion in the industry is the fact that TRAI has issued two sets of communications, apart from a press release sent to the media. One is the notification and the other is the more than 10 pages of consultation paper.


Surprising though, the fact that TRAI's first initiative for the broadcast and cable industry hasn't elicited the type of enthusiasm one had expected, considering a sizeable section of the industry wanted a regulator to be in place. 

So much so that many broadcasters either did not want to comment immediately or did not want to be quoted.

Even the cable fraternity is confused. And it is not only Zee's Goel. National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA) president Vikki Chowdhry said, "The official language is totally confusing. But I read it as we don't have to pay the extra amount of money being demanded by the broadcasters."

Cable Operators' Federation of India (COFI) chief Roop Sharma said from Cochin, where she has gone to rally cable operators for CAS, that she too is "slightly confused."

"Does the TRAI order mean that rates have been frozen all over the country or for CAS zones? Who'll monitor whether the order is being followed or not? Does TRAI have enough manpower to do an effective monitoring of the situation?" Sharma came out with a deluge of questions.

Valid questions, though. For example, for CAS zones, Star India may have 'dropped' rates, but for non-CAS zones, according to the cable industry, the network is charging Rs. 55 for the bouquet now, up from Rs 50. Of course, it includes the newly-launched The History Channel too.

Another broadcaster that can get effected significantly, ESPN-Star Sports, was not available for comment.

A senior executive of Hathway Datacom, without wanting to get into nitty-gritties, said, "It's good that TRAI has come out with something. We'll study the material and revert to the regulator."

What is the moral of the story? Even a regulator, probably, would need some time to understand the complexities of the broadcast and cable industry. Now, that gives rise to a very fundamental question: is TRAI adequately equipped to do so?

Latest Reads
Star World to air 1-5 of 'Homeland'

Star World and Star World HD is all geared up to air the pulse-pounding action series 'Homeland.' The show tackles geopolitical moral conundrums of our current world. It has recently unveiled the teaser for the upcoming season 6 shows how Carrie Mathison will circumvent around another international...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
Share all World Cup, T-20 feeds with Prasar Bharati, rights holder told

The telecast of all official one-day and Twenty-20 matches played by the Indian Men’s Cricket Team will henceforth have to be shared by the rights holder with the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati under the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act 2007.

Television TV Channels Terrestrial
Saregama returns to film music acquisition with Pen pact

Saregama India has inked a two-movie deal with Pen Movies. With this agreement, Saregama has acquired the music rights of upcoming Bollywood releases of Pen which includes Kahaani 2 -- Durga Rani Singh, featuring Vidya Balan and Arjun Rampal.Kahaani 2 is slated for a release on 2 December.

Television TV Channels Music and Youth
Q2-17: Zeel numbers, PAT up on higher Ad and Subscription revenue

The Subhash Chandra led content and broadcast player Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (Zeel) reported a 23 per cent hike in consolidated revenue for the quarter ended 30 September 2016 (Q2-17, current quarter) as compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year.

Television TV Channels GECs
Best Deal TV appoints Hari Trivedi as COO

MUMBAI: Best Deal TV has appointed Hari Trivedi as the chief operating officer with immediate effect. Based in Mumbai, Trivedi will be responsible for overall sales and marketing. He would also be initializing lowest price offers and deals on Best Deal TV.

Television TV Channels People
Disney announces successor of MD Siddharth Roy-Kapur

MUMBAI: Walt Disney International has announced the successor to its former managing director Siddharth Roy-Kapur. As a second stint with the organization, Mahesh Samat has made a comeback and will lead The Walt Disney Company India as the managing director. He will pursue his new responsibility...

Television TV Channels People
Life is more imaginative than fiction in a story like POW, says writer-director Gideon Raff

MUMBAI: Sometimes, coming back home after 17 years is not always a happy ending. "Prisoners of War" is the story of three Israeli soldiers, who were held captive for that many years following their kidnapping while on a secret mission with their unit.

Television TV Shows Thriller
IPL media rights bidding postponed sine die

MUMBAI: The BCCI has made it clear that the media rights auction cannot take place till the time it gets a concrete go-ahead and a formal approval from the Justice RM Lodha committee. Till the evening of 24 October (Monday), BCCI did not receive the okay from the committee which said, "it is in...

Television TV Channels Sports
Q3-16: DIRECTV mitigates AT&T U-Verse TV subscriber numbers fall

BENGALURU: AT&T acquired DIRECTV added 323,000 net subscribers and hence helped mitigate the company’s Entertainment and Internet Services Group (Entertainment) segment’s loss of 326,000 U-Verse subscribers for the quarter ended 30 September 2016 (Q3-16, current quarter). About 70 percent of...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories