Republic TV insists it's FTA, DTH platforms to charge subscribers for viewing?

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Republic TV continues to make news even as it reports views and news. Touted as the country’s truly free-to-air (FTA) news channel, however, what is surprising is that some DTH platforms have put a price on the channel and started charging subscribers accordingly a little over a fortnight after its launch.

It all started last weekend when a gentleman posted on Facebook “Dus ka dum. #RepublicTV  starts charging Rs 10 pm (Power of 10. Republic TV starts charging Rs. 10 per month).” A flurry of posts --- some of them sarcastic --- for and against this move followed. We at at decided to go back to  industry to get the real picture.

In a nutshell this is the scenario: some of the DTH platforms in the country have decided to charge subscribers for Republic TV from a price ranging between Rs 10 and Rs 3 per month per sub; MSOs, at least the big ones, are still keeping the new kid on the block free for viewing, while on popular OTT platform Hotstar, one can sign in with a personalized email or one’s FB account to watch Republic TV for free.

But, the news channel in question maintained it is still FTA.

Tata Sky MD & CEO Harit Nagpal, while confirming his company has put a price on Republic TV for subscribers, told all DTH platforms are permitted to charge a minimal pre-decided rate for even FTA channels.

While pointing out rates for FTA channels were fixed by the platform and placed on the website, Nagpal explained such a move (like that involving Republic TV) was permitted under the relevant tariff orders issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Though he did not dwell on the actual pricing, some subscribers have reported that Tata Sky is charging Rs 10 per month from its subscribers for Republic TV on ala carte basis.

According to Videocond2h's spokesperson, by definition FTA channels are supposed to be free, but there’s a cost that a distribution platform incurs on distributing a TV channel and which has to be recovered.

Pointing out that there was “no compulsion” to give a FTA channel `free’ to subscribers, spokesperson explained, “The ala-carte price is Rs 3 for Republic TV. Pricing is a matter of continuous discussion on marketing feedback, fine tuning and how competition was doing. The channel might be free, but there is a cost to carry the channel on my platform. If I don't get any revenue from the channel, how will I recover the (satellite) rental.”

Though officially it could not be confirmed, but Airtel Digital TV too is charging Rs 3 per month per month from subscribers for Republic TV. As far as the Essel group’s Dish TV is concerned, a scroll from time to time is being run on channel number 771, Republic TV, highlighting that it channel will be available till  the first week of June as part of a free preview scheme, which makes it clear that the platform also may start charging subscribers sooner or later.

When got across to Republic TV for clarifications, a senior executive insisted on Monday that the news channel was FTA and had no plans to become a pay channel. The executive added that the company would reach out to DTH ops trying to “persuade (them) not to charge for Republic TV and to place it in the FTA package.”


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