Mumbai: There are gaps in the effective exercise of consumer choice in TV channel selection, according to a study on the TV consumer market, released on Wednesday.
The key findings of the report suggest that most consumers avail TV channels via bouquets or packages and rely on distributors’ basic packages to make their choice. Based on the findings, the report states that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) could review the charges for Network Capacity Fee (NCF), which is a flat fee, and instead consider a Network Access Fee (NAF), which is charged on a per-channel basis.
The nationwide survey of over 10,000 TV consumers was commissioned by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) and Broadband India Forum (BIF) in the months of April and May 2022. The study evaluated consumers' perception of TV channel selection and overall satisfaction.
This is a first-of-its-kind evidence-based study conducted in India which captures the consumers’ perspective and level of satisfaction regarding TV viewership.
TV consumers prefer bouquets/packages
The study found that 54 per cent of consumers surveyed buy TV channels via bouquets or packages, and 35 per cent do so via a combination of bouquets and individual channels. With an effective total of 89 per cent of consumers surveyed preferring bouquets, the survey highlighted that it was the preferred choice of channel selection.
According to 70 per cent of survey respondents, television provides good value for money, compared to only 27 per cent for digital/OTT platforms and only three per cent for TV apps.
Most consumers factor in the price of a TV package when selecting a TV subscription, and a majority subscribe to the distributors’ basic package, which includes between 100 and 200 channels. The survey found that consumers typically pay between Rs 200 and Rs 400 for their subscriptions.
40 per cent of survey respondents felt that their TV subscriptions catered to the viewing needs of the entire family. However, consumers felt that there was room for levels of satisfaction to grow, as they may want to watch new channels that they think they may like, highlighted the study.
Quality of Service (QoS) found wanting
The study pointed out that a majority of consumers, 75 per cent, were unaware of Trai’s channel selector app, launched in June 2020. Only 31 per cent were aware that they could add/remove TV channels from their subscription packages, 51 per cent were hesitant to add/remove channels themselves, and only 43 per cent of those who eventually added TV channels found the process convenient.
The majority of consumers, 60 per cent, relied on manual channel addition and removal & required direct intervention from distribution, it found.
In 2017, Trai issued quality of service (QoS) regulations requiring itemised billing, quick and convenient grievance redressal, and assistance with customer premises equipment.
The study found that one in five consumers believes there has been a decline in grievance redressal, assistance with set-top-boxes (STBs), freedom to choose which channels to watch, and an increase in the number of advertisements.
Furthermore, three out of every four customers claim to have never received an itemised bill. All of these are required by the current regulatory framework, and non-compliance with this framework is reflected in insufficient enforcement at the last mile of distribution, it said.
Empower last mile service providers
As per the conclusions of the study, the mismatch between consumer preferences and channel subscriptions could be reduced if more efforts are made to raise consumer awareness, e.g., capacity building through regional consumer cells, and if consumers have more say in deciding their bouquets.
The study suggested that the charges for Network Capacity Fee (NCF) could be reviewed to ensure that subscriptions reflect consumer choice. Alternatively, a per-channel Network Access Fee (NAF) could be considered instead of a flat NCF charge.
"Distributors could be incentivised to assist customers by providing appropriate channels and bouquets of their choice using this method," said the statement.
The regulator could also assist credible consumer organisations in raising awareness, developing capacity and acting as watchdogs for QoS compliance, channel selection availability, quality of content, viewing experience and quality of service.
Last-mile service providers/distribution platform operators continue to be the primary point of contact for TV subscriptions, and it is crucial that QoS requirements and transparency mandates are accomplished.
CUTS International secretary general Pradeep S. Mehta said, "The major findings indicate that there are gaps in the effective exercise of consumer choice as well as channel selection. Efforts to enhance consumer awareness around their rights as well as methods of channel selection are imperative. However, any further regulatory intervention should follow a detailed cost-benefit analysis."
Broadband India Forum president T.V. Ramachandran said, "The study assumes great significance and relevance, especially in the present times, when the general notion is that digital media and content are impacting the popularity of legacy and linear TV. The report indicates possible areas for regulatory and policy focus to help in the overall improvement of quality of services and consumer satisfaction."