Regulators

Trai slashes Nimbus bouquet price by Rs 21.25

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has directed Nimbus Sports Broadcast Pvt Ltd to reduce the price of its two channels by Rs 21.25 to Rs 37.25. Nimbus had priced the bouquet at Rs 58.50.

The regulator has asked Nimbus to furnish a report of compliance within seven days from the date of receipt of this direction. The directive was issued yesterday.

Reacting to the decision, Nimbus officials have told Indiantelevision.com that they would be filing a challenge to Trai's directive before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

Trai ordered this in relation to a complaint filed by Cable Operators' Federation of India, after reviewing the prices charged by other broadcasters in the the same genre, that is, sport.

In the Cas (Conditional access system) areas, Nimbus will have to stick to Trai's tariff order where a la carte channels can be priced at a maximum of Rs 5.

A clearly jubilant Cable Operators' Federation of India president Roop Sharma told Indiantelevision.com that "this was a great decision as customers were being fleeced."

Trai has held that the decision was based on Clause 3 of its principal Tariff Order relating to charges, and said that Nimbus' contentions were irrelevant especially because review of the prices charged by channels of the same genre showed that these are much less.

Nimbus had argued that the prices for its two channels, Neo Sports and Neo Sports Plus, were higher than those of other sports channels because their content, composition and structure were different than such other rival sports channels.

Trai in its decision observed that clause 3 of the principal Tariff Order specifies that the charges, excluding taxes, payable by (a) Cable subscribers to cable operator; (b) Cable Operators to multi system operators / broadcasters (including their authorised distribution agencies); and (c) Multi System operators to broadcasters(including their authorised distribution agencies) prevalent as on the 26th December 2003 shall be the ceiling with respect to both free-to-air and pay channels.

Tra said that basically, channels of the same genre are required to charge the same price and this is a reasonable basic for fixing of prices.

But the "thrust of the arguments of Nimbus does not bring out facts, which would justify a higher price being charged by them for its said sports channels as compared with other similar channels of the same genre", Trai observed.

The regulator compared the prices charged by Star Sports and ESPN and said that after due consideration, it has decided that Nimbus would have to slash the rate by Rs 21.25.

Trai said that the argument that the prices charged were based on composition, content and structure of a sports channel did not hold ground.

"Being business decisions, these may undergo a change in view of changing perception of the market and other perceptions, and such changes will not have a bearing on deciding the similarity of channels, as required under clause 3B, so long as the genre of the channel does not get altered on account of such changes," Trai said.

Trai observed that even in the case of Nimbus' own two channels, Neo Sports and Neo Sports Plus, which were different in their respective compositions, contents and structures "both the said sports channels are having the same price".

"This shows that the broadcaster has not resorted to differential pricing even where composition, content and structure are different," Trai observed.

Commenting on the Trai directive WWIL senior executive vice president Arvind Mohanl said, "This is a seminal order and will go a long way to ease the burden on consumers."

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