DTH

Subscribers' DTH/Cable bills to go down by 14% for a-la-carte channels: ICRA

TRAI on 1 January 2020 had amended some provisions of new tariff order 2017

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MUMBAI: The recent Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) amendments over tariff charges could potentially lower the direct-to home (DTH)/ cable bills of the subscribers up to 14 per cent from the present levels, a credit rating agency ICRA said in an analytical report.

According to a press statement, ICRA said that the amendment encourage subscribers to exercise their right to choose and opt for a-la-carte channels. TRAI on 1 January 2020 amended some provisions of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eight) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order, 2017.

The amendments are slated to come in effect from March 1, 2020.

The Tariff Order released in 2017 had allowed the subscribers to choose the nature of channels as free to air (FTA) or pay channel as well as declare a-la-carte pricing of all channels.

However, contrary to TRAI’s expectations, the rating agency said, given the high channel pricing of the popular general entertainment channels (GECs) and sports channels (with 66 of the 330 existing pay channels being priced at the ceiling rate of Rs. 19 per month).

This move by broadcaster had tarnished the very purpose of the Tariff Order, resulting in up to 23% surge in bills for subscribers, ICRA estimated, and continued the dominance of bouquets in the subscription patterns.

ICRA’s vice president Kinjal Shah said, “The recent amendments will adversely impact the broadcasters, revenues, the subscription revenues are also expected to reduce (as subscription charges for a-la-carte channels will reduce and due to the expected shift of subscribers from bouquets to a-la-carte selection).”

Shah further said, “Furthermore, given the reduction in the number of channels that can be offered in a bouquet (for a given price), bundling of non-popular channels with established ones will reduce, thereby impacting their reach and thus advertisement revenues for the broadcaster. This, however, would eventually lead to an increased focus on content quality.”

TRAI in the amendment of 2017 tariff order has also increased the channel offerings for the network capacity fee (NCF) of Rs. 130 (excluding taxes) per month to 200 standard definitions (SD) (pay or FTA) channels from the present 100 SD channels.  

The amendments are expected to be a mixed bag of positives and negatives for DPOs. The overall reduction in NCF and the cap on NCF to be charged for additional TVs in a multi-TV home is negative for the DPOs.

TRAI has, however, allowed DPOs to offer different NCF across geographical regions (state / district / towns) as well as offer promotional schemes (on NCF / Distributor Retail Price - DRPs), up to 90 days at a time, twice in a calendar year. DPOs are additionally allowed to offer discounts on NCF / DRPs for long-term subscription plans.  

ICRA’s assistant vice president Sakshi Suneja, said, “After the recent changes in the tariff, the prices of popular GECs and sports channels are expected to reduce from Rs. 19 per month to Rs. 12 per month, given the revised ceiling rates for a-la-carte channels, to be included in bouquets.”

“The amendments also seek to improve the attractiveness of a-la-carte channels, by reducing discounts that can be offered on bouquet pricing to 33% (vis-a-vis a-lacarte prices, from the existing average levels of discounts of 40-54%),” Suneja said.

She pointed out that through the introduction of two new conditions: i) capping the maximum retail price (MRP) of a-la-carte channel that can be included in a bouquet to up to three times of the average MRP per month of a pay channel of that bouquet and ii) MRP, per month, of a pay channel to not exceed the MRP, per month, of the bouquet containing that pay channel.

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