TRAI Regime: Trail By Fire?
IMPACT|January 13, 2019

As broadcasters come out with individual value packs to woo consumers before the TRAI tariff regime comes into effect from Feb 1, we analyse the scenario for all stakeholders and find that consumer behaviour will finally determine how the order is implemented in the months ahead

Samarpita Banerjee

Even as the Indian broadcast industry is set to enter a new era, with the impending implementation of the new tariff regime mandated by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) from February 1, experts predict that much will depend on how consumers react. In fact, depending on consumer behaviour, individual value packs announced by broadcasters now may have to be recalibrated in the months ahead.

According to the new framework - aimed at empowering consumers with the choice of paying only for the TV channels that they want to watch - all DTH and cable channel subscribers will need to subscribe to a base pack of Rs 130+ taxes to watch 100 free-to-air (FTA) channels that users can select out of 500 channels. However, this base pack will not include some of the popular channels offered by major broadcasters. Most broadcasters have already unveiled their value packs along with their a-la-carte prices that consumers will need to select from. Some broadcasters have had to convert a few FTA channels to pay in the new bouquets.

However, the industry is still trying to figure out if the primary purpose of the entire exercise will be served by the new tariff regime. Considering the steep discounted rates that are being offered on bouquets, experts feel that consumers might not be interested in opting for value packs individually and will eventually end up paying for bouquet offerings. Currently, the bouquet pricing is much lower than the a-la-carte pricing, and if a consumer has to buy channels individually, in case a bouquet does not contain the channels of his choice, he might end up paying much more.

So far, a lot was also dependent on the 15% discount cap on which the Supreme Court verdict was awaited. However, on January 4, 2019, the special leave petition (SLP) filed by TRAI seeking clarification on the 15% bouquet discount cap was dismissed as withdrawn in the Supreme Court.

A recent report by Edelweiss predicted that if consumers end up paying more than they were initially paying, broadcasters will need to re-look at their packages which could lead to price recalibration or bouquet trimming. This means that the initial packages launched by each broadcaster may not really be the final package. Each player will wait to observe consumer behaviour and modify their plans and packages accordingly, with time. Most broadcasters believe things will take around six months to a year to settle down, both from the perspective of consumers as well as the DTH players and LCOs.

THE TARIFF PACKS

Star India has introduced the Star Value Pack at Rs 49 in Hindi and is running a campaign with its most popular faces to inform viewers about it. Viacom18 and TV18 have joined hands to address the issue of price rise as they launched their Value Pack, comprising top channels across genres at Rs 1 per day. Zee too has launched its communication initiative ‘Channels Ka Chunaav 2019’. It will be offering three types of packs to cater to different viewer needs. While Prime Packs are based on core regional language consumption, Family Packs will offer top genres and All-in-One Packs will provide all genres. The Zee Family Pack is targeted at the Hindi Speaking Market (HSM) and has been priced at Rs 45 per month for 24 channels.

Sony Pictures Networks India has launched the Happy India pack priced at Rs 31 per month for nine channels. Sony has introduced 16 bouquets, starting from Rs 31 for the Sony Silver Pack which will have Sab, Set Max, Max 2, Sony Yay!, Pal, Sony Wah, Mix and Sony Marathi to Rs 90 for the Sony HD Platinum Pack, offering 18 channels. Times Network announced its channel packs in three categories - Times Network News Pack, Times Network Value Pack and Times Network HD Premium Pack where the value pack includes a mix of channels including Times Now, ET Now, Mirror Now, Zoom, Movies Now, MNX and Romedy Now. The other variant packs include Times Network News Pack at Rs 5 that includes English news channels, their Bollywood entertainment channel Zoom and Times Network HD Premium Pack at Rs 20 which includes all SD and HD channels of the network.

In the South market, major players have come up with individual pricing too. Moreover, major DTH operators like Airtel Digital TV and Dish TV have also announced their new channel pack pricing.

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