TRAI’s lifeline for content aggregators

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s  latest notification of regulations for content aggregators has attempted to curb their muscling power, even as it has allowed them to continue as agents carrying out the same function.

TRAI on Monday notified amendments to its regulations barring content aggregators from bundling of channels belonging to different broadcaster groups and mandated broadcasters to themselves sign Reference Interconnect Offers (RIOs) with Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs). The broadcasters have, however, been allowed to appoint authorised agents to market their bouquets, which could be the existing aggregators.

The amended regulations change the status of content aggregators from entities that aggregated television channels and marketed them in bundled packages to television distribution platforms to that of agents of broadcasters.

But the role of content aggregators may not change radically. Content aggregators as agents of broadcasters might still be able to perpetuate their dominance, though in a slightly diluted form.

The concerns flagged by TRAI vis-?-vis the business of content aggregation were:

a. Top three content aggregators – MediaPro Enterprise India, IndiaCast UTV Media Distribution, MSM Discovery – controlled 58.6% of the total pay TV market.

b. Content aggregators forced all-channel bouquets on the DPOs, validated by the fact that even though the largest bouquets offered by the aggregators in their RIOs are in the range of 13 to 20 channels, the agreements entered into are for a package of channels consisting of almost all the channels they are authorised to distribute.

c. Content aggregators grossly discriminated against independent DPOs, charging 62 per cent to 85% more than DPOs which are established by broadcasting groups.

The outcome of the amendments to the TRAI regulations could be the following:

a. End of the era of clout wherein aggregators used to bundle channels of various broadcaster groups into  package cluster and thrust them down the DPOs throats.

b. Making it obligatory for broadcasters to publish RIOs will result in relative transparency of pricing of channels.

c. The margin of discrimination against independent DPOs may substantially get narrowed.

d. The existence of content aggregators gets erased from the regulatory point of view. The regulations make the broadcasters responsible for the actions of content aggregators, now described as authorised agents of broadcasters.

The issues the amendments have not addressed:

a. By allowing channels from broadcasters within a corporate group to be packaged, the TRAI has allowed weak channels to piggyback on highly dominant  and popular channels. This could lead to problem and conflict in future when these networks swell as they add more and channels.

b. Agents have been allowed to sell channels of different broadcaster groups though as separate bouquets. This does not completely eliminate the bargaining power of agents. They can bargain with DPOs for weak bouquets in exchange for a supposedly more favourable deal on dominant bouquets.

c. Though TRAI made a mention of the undue advantage enjoyed by content aggregators owned by broadcasters, it stopped short of clamping down on the cross-holding norms for them, meaning it has continued to allow different broadcast networks to own a distribution agent.

d. Independent DPOs will still be discriminated against, though the scale of bias against them is expected to significantly narrow.

The amended regulations may have shaken up content aggregators. For the past six months, executives working in these companies were filled with trepidation that they would be forced to shut down their operations. But by allowing them to continue as agents, the TRAI has offered them a lifeline.

Latest Reads
TV channels cite logistical challenges in broadcast for the disabled

NEW DELHI: A debate on broadcasting for persons with disabilities (PWDs) has thrown up more questions than solutions. TV channels have stated that though desirable, the process is expensive and challenging, for instance, in case of live events and that before setting guidelines for private...

Regulators TRAI
Dish TV bemoans govt's neglect of DTH sector

MUMBAI: Dish TV, while lamenting neglect and step-motherly treatment of the whole DTH sector by the government, has exhorted policy-makers to remove various discriminations in the licencing conditions of various distribution platforms as it has resulted in taxing times for DTH operators.

Regulators I&B Ministry
Right time for India-centric global news channel: Smriti Irani

MUMBAI: Information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Smriti Irani is ready to take India abroad. The minister has said it is the right time for the state-owned broadcaster to launch a news channel focused on India for the international market, although she added that no decision has been taken...

Regulators I&B Ministry
MIB admits no DTH infra sharing permission sought

NEW DELHI: Despite the initial hype and enthusiasm over infrastructure sharing by broadcast, cable and satellite-delivered service players (such as DTH operators) and lengthy suggestions on the subject by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the government has admitted no stakeholder...

Regulators I&B Ministry
Law ministry likely to give opinion on DTH guidelines review

Even as the government admitted in Parliament yesterday that it has granted six companies licenses to operate DTH services in India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has, reportedly, referred to the Law Ministry a long-pending proposal to review DTH guidelines in the country

Regulators TRAI
MIB says fewer TV channels violating ad, prog norms

NEW DELHI: Indian channels seem to be finally toeing the line. The number of TV channels violating codes has been on a decline over the years. As many as 54 private television channels have violated the programme and advertising codes since 2014, though the number has been dipping, the Lok Sabha (...

Regulators I&B Ministry
No proposal to ban junk food ads on TV: Smriti Irani

Childhood obesity is a rising problem in India. The issue was addressed in today’s Lok Sabha session when a reply was sought from the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani on whether the government is aware of the study that correlates watching ads on TV with increasing habit of...

Regulators I&B Ministry
Broadcasters, DPOs oppose TV channel auction proposal

NEW DELHI: Most big and small broadcasting companies owning and operating TV channels in India, along with distribution platforms, have categorically opposed any move by the government to auction satellite TV channels as a complete package similar to FM radio channels.

Regulators TRAI
MIB mulls broadcast of DD News to 100 countries

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is contemplating its expansion of Doordarshan's 24-hour news broadcast to around 100 countries with a view to reaching out to the world and putting forth India’s viewpoint on domestic and international issues, according to an Economic Times report.

Regulators I&B Ministry

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories