DTH, cable TV pricing changes from Dec 29

DTH, cable TV pricing changes from Dec 29

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is changing the rules of the TV subscription game. What’s in store for you in a week from now? Are you going to pay more or less? Metrolife finds operators not so sure.

Consumers who don’t watch too much TV expect to pay less once the new regime kicks in.

DTH and cable subscription rates are going to change as you ring in the new year. The industry regulator believes consumers will pay less, but not everyone is convinced.

The regulator is stipulating a subscription of Rs 130 for the first set of 100 channels. 

The idea is to give subscribers right of choice, and pay only for the channels they want to watch. The broadcasters and operators now bundle channels and create packages, often forcing on subscribers channels they would never watch.

By December 29, DTH (direct to home) subscribers are expected to choose which channels they want to watch. The MRP for each channel is fixed by the channel. 

Free-to-air channels, such as Doordarshan, are covered under the minimum subscription of Rs 130. You pay for others, such as Star and Sony, separately. 

TRAI says it wants to bring about transparency by separating the ‘network capacity fee’ and pay-channel fee. It says it has noticed that no subscriber watches more than 50 channels. 

When Metrolife called cable TV service provider Hathway, an executive said, “Call back on December 29 to choose the channels.” 

Dish TV said customers need not worry until next Saturday “as the amount has not been finalised yet.”

The subscription for individual channels is listed on DTH websites. For example, TataSky tells you how much each pay channel, like Comedy Central and MTV, costs.

Under the new regulations, the MRP for a channel is capped at Rs 19 a month if it’s in a bouquet.

An industry insider said the subscription varies from 25 paise to Rs 19.

Anita Jobin, a DTH subscriber, is positive about the government initiative, but sceptical about prices coming down.

“I expect DTH operators to come back with combo offers that seem irresistible. So while you think that you, as a customer, have the power over the DTH provider, they will get the better of you,” she says. 

Prasant Kumar, techie, says the new rules protect the interests of those who don’t watch too much TV.

“As a professional, I am not at home most of the time. Yet I pay monthly for a service we hardly use. A regulation such as this is economical for customers like me,” he says.

Industry insiders told Metrolife TataSky and Airtel had asked for time till January 10, saying they don’t have enough bandwidth to change the entire regime by December 29.  The Supreme Court is hearing a case related to this on January 10.


A quick view of what’s coming up

- On December 18, TRAI announced new rules for cable and DTH.

- The state objective is to transfer the right of choice from operator to customer.

- Basic subscription is Rs 130 a month (plus 18% GST) for 100 channels.

- Of them, 26 are mandatory Prasar Bharati channels.

- DTH and cable operators can decide on the rest from free-to-air channels.

- Subscribers pay for each additional channel, or bouquet.

- Each channel decides how much to charge, but maximum is Rs 19 a month in a bouquet. Operators may offer deals on bouquets.

- Distributors (DTH and cable operators) can levy no other charge.

- From December 29, all cable TV and DTH networks have to implement the new rates.

A family watches max 50 channels: TRAI

According to the Broadcast Audience Research Council, cited by TRAI, no home watches more than 50 channels.

“It is being perpetrated (by the cable and DTH industry) that a consumer family that watches 250 channels will end up paying much higher amount than at present. This is a fictional pretension,” a TRAI document says.