The new pricing framework introduced by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has made headlines in the last few months along with the chairman of the body, RS Sharma. After a lot of hurdles and delays, Trai has finally managed to bring the new rule to effect thus instilling transparency and new pricing techniques into the broadcast and TV industry in general. However, there has been a debate going on in the sector regarding the usefulness and the effects of the new framework. In a conversation with Indian Television, Trai Chairman shared his thoughts about the new tariff regime and also revealed some statistics to support his claim. Since the rollout of the new framework, RS Sharma kept on saying that the new framework has reduced the TV subscription bill by at least 25%, and he again says that most of the users are witnessing 5-15% drop in their monthly bill.
New Pricing Framework Aimed at Bringing Transparency
The Trai chairman firstly said that the new pricing regime was aimed at extending the benefits of the digitisation of Broadcasting and Cable Services sector in India, the work for which had started in 2012. He also added that the new pricing regime, enabled the choice to the consumers, brought transparency in the sector, ensured level playing field among stakeholders, equal opportunities to all, opened growth opportunities and initiated market dynamics to take auto-corrective actions. Further, he added that to see the transformations in the broadcasting industry, we would have to wait a bit more and then measure the long term effects.
On being asked about the rising subscription cost of DTH operators post the new tariff regime, RS Sharma said that the studies that indicate these figures are considering the analysis of subscribing to 250 channels or more. Emphasising on this point, he said, that the new mandate is aimed at “paying for what you watch”, meaning that when subscribers choose only the channels that they watch and don’t add additional channels, then they will end up paying lesser than their previous subscription. He also added that the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) study highlights that more than 90% of TV homes view or flip 50 channels or fewer. In case of a higher number of channel selections, he said that the marginal increase in price could not be denied. Sharma also said that as per the preliminary data collected by some of the large DPOs, the subscribers are saving around 10-15% in the metro regions whereas, in the non-metro areas, subscribers are saving around 5-10%.
Best Fit Plans as Intermediary Step in Subscriber Migration
Talking about the Best Fit Plans (BFPs) RS Sharma said that there were hurdles in getting the subscribers to migrate to the new plans like in some cases the LCOs could not create awareness, or the customers had to go to the POS, and in some cases even exercised options were deactivated. Thus to tackle these issues, and for the subscribers who had not yet exercised their options, the regulator requested all the DPOs to create Best Fit Plans (BFPs). He also highlighted that the BFPs were asked to be curated on consumers’ usage pattern, language spoken, and a mix of genres. Also, the DPOs were asked to upgrade the subscribers from the BFPs to the channel selections within 72 hours since the BFPs were an intermediary step.
Trai on Regulation Violations and Overall Effect of New Regime
On the matter of some DPOs slacking off on the new rules, the chairman said that Trai would never compromise on such violations and would act according to the prevailing law. He also reiterated the tussle between BARC and Trai were the latter asked the audience research entity to continue publishing the data related to the TV industry. When asked about monopoly in the sector, Trai chairman said, “Each entity has to work under the policy and regulatory framework prescribed by Trai. Trai has already submitted its recommendations on media ownership and vertical integration in the media and entertainment sector to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). It is under consideration by the MIB.”
Lastly, RS Sharma remarked that the new regulatory framework introduced in India is the first of its kind in the world and it is also a massive exercise which involves every stakeholder in the country, and also involving reaching out to 165 million households. He said that the new regulations have extended the benefits of the digitisation of the sector in India to its consumers and service providers, as such the defined objectives are primarily met.