Cable TV

NTO 2.0: DPOs express discontent over partial implementation of regulation

Bombay HC will hear the broadcasters’ petition against TRAI today

KOLKATA: With constant changes in regulations, the pay-TV sector in India continues to face uncertainty. Major broadcasters have come together to fight the implementation of the amended new tariff order (NTO 2.0) as directed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). However, distribution platform operators (DPOs) have already complied with the network capacity fee (NCF), multi-TV charges, etc., under the new directive and express dissatisfaction over the partial implementation. 

“TRAI had asked all DPOs to adhere with NTO 2.0 on NCF, multi-home and others. As broadcasters have not given any new rates, you can’t implement the full NTO 2.0. If you implement half NTO, you have taken whatever is negative on your books but whatever positive we could take from broadcasters’ side has not happened. Hence, it is harmful to both DPOs and subscribers. We will be struggling how to handle it if the issues drag on and broadcasters don’t come out with new prices,” says GTPL Hathway CATV business head and chief strategy officer Piyush Pankaj.

While broadcasters are reeling under Covid2019 impact, TRAI came out with a directive to implement NTO 2.0 by 10 August. As the petition against it was already sub judice, the broadcasters went to the Bombay high court challenging the directive. The court asked both parties to go by “gentlemen’s word” and TRAI assured it would not take any action till the next hearing. The court is hearing the case today before a bench comprising justice AA Sayed and justice Anuja Prabhudesai. 

Another executive from a national MSO also brought up the fact that TRAI made all DPOs to implement the order on 1 March. But DPOs could not implement new pricing without broadcasters publishing it. Hence, many DPOs reached out to TRAI saying that either broadcasters should comply with all the rules or the authority should roll back pressure on DPOs. He also informs that one of the large broadcasters already published new pricing with 10-15 per cent hike but was continuing with the old reference interconnect offer (RIO).

“Any channel which is above Rs 12 cannot be clubbed in a bouquet. If broadcasters don’t reduce the prices to be included in the bouquet that will affect all our bouquets,” says Metrocast Network Services promoter Nagesh Chhabria. However, he adds that there is no issue currently as Metrocast is continuing with the old model.

“It’s an ecosystem, you cannot implement regulations in bits and parts,” says UCN Cable Network director Jagdish Paliya. However, he adds that NTO 2.0 is not very favourable for DPOs, too, as making a discount on second box compulsory is harsh on the operators.

But what if the order comes in favour of the implementation of NTO 2.0? Here, the DPOs echo broadcasters’ view that executing it amid a pandemic would be very difficult. While approximately 15 million pay-TV subscribers cut the cord during NTO 1.0 implementation, the executive from a national MSO posed the most important question - will more subscribers drop off now?

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