The last date to implement TRAI Tariff Order was over (31st January), but many subscribers are still facing subscription renewal issues and Q3 revenue of leading DTH operators like Dish TV has been hit hard due to delay in implementation and lack of clarity and court cases. Though it was felt the trend will reverse in February, as the tariff order gets implemented, hiccups are still being experienced. The regulator has extended the date of complete implementation to 31 March 2019.
The telecom regulator TRAI had given one-month time to customers to migrate to the new regime. The new regulatory framework finally started from 1st February. The process of migration has begun from 1st February. TRAI says that the DPOs require few days to start migrating the customers due to technical requirements. All pay channels have also started playing tickers informing customers about the migration to the new regime.
TRAI warns DPOs:
On 22 January, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) warned all distribution platform operators (DPOs) of strict action if they fail to implement the new tariff order from 1 Feb.
TRAI held a meeting with DPOs on 22 Jan in New Delhi, and warned that the DPOs that don’t transition their customers to the new framework will face disconnection of channels from the broadcasters from 1st February. The regulator stated that it will ask the broadcasters to black out channels to DPOs who are not implementing the new tariff order.
TRAI added that DPOs that are not in compliance with the new regulatory framework might also face licence cancellation. The authority said it will advise the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) to cancel the licences of DPOs who fail to comply with the new framework.
TRAI secretary SK Gupta along with other officials was present. The official representatives of the DPOs also attended the meeting.
DPOs (except Tata Sky and Airtel Digital TV) have received the choice of roughly 40-50% of their consumers. The TRAI had directed the DPOs to collect 100% choice from customers by 21st January. While Tata Sky has not implemented the tariff order, Airtel TV Digital has got package details of roughly 45,000 of its subscribers. Dish TV has received details from 35% of its customer base. Other DPOs have got customer choice from 30-50% of their customers.
Blackout chances& confusion:
Also, post 7 Feb, the distribution platform operators (DPOs) were supposed to switch off those customers who fail to migrate to new packs offered by different broadcasters. The order was issued by the telecom regulator TRAI on 30 Jan. TRAI had held a meeting with DPOs and broadcasters in Delhi on 30 Jan and with broadcasters on 29 Jan. Many consumers are already complaining of vanishing of many popular channels from their TV.
As per media sources, on 6 Feb, Airtel Digital TV has received a show-cause notice from the regulator TRAI as consumers reported facing a black screen while they were migrating to the new TRAI tariff order. TRAI has taken care not to reveal the name of the operator to stay away from a media outbreak.
Pesky DTH operators:
On DTH operators, TRAI said: “Authority has been receiving hundreds of complaints intimating that one of the DTH (Direct to home) service provider is not providing options to its subscribers to exercise their choices and providing misleading information in regard to implementation of new framework. The Authority has taken up the matter. The said DTH operator has assured in writing that they will be complying with the new regulatory framework and will make the options available for obtaining the consumers choice. The Authority assures all the subscribers that all efforts are being made to ensure that there is no inconvenience or any disruption of TV services due to the migration to the new regulatory regime.”
Tata Sky surrenders:
Before the last date closed, leading defiant DTH operator Tata Sky finally said yes to implement the TRAI tariff order. The DTH operator was recently chastised by the telecom regulator TRAI and served a show-cause notice, for "lack of initiative" in informing its subscribers of the new broadcast tariff regime.
Tata Sky CEO HaritNagpal said: "The law of the land is always complied with, and we are ready to assist our customers with the migration. There may have been difference of opinion, but that does not mean we would be non- complaint."
Nagpal added it is difficult to provide any guidance at this point in time. He added Tata Sky will ensure that transparency is maintained in customer selection and "they get to pay for what they want to watch."
However, Tata Sky is still offering customers an option to receive content "in line with the existing bouquets" they have subscribed for. Tata Sky has also recently launched their subscriber communication campaign to spread awareness about the seamless process of changing packs according to the new pricing regime.
Court cases play a spoilsport:
On 30 January, two conflicting things happened in two different high courts. While the Calcutta High Court stayed the implementation of the new tariff order till 18th February, the Madras High Court dismissed a petition challenging the TRAI’s regulations and tariff order. At Madras HC, the petitioner contended that the process of cable TV digitisation has not been completed in the state. He also stated that only 4.6 million homes have gone digital as opposed to 11.1 million TV homes in the state.
At Calcutta HC, while hearing a petition filed by 80 local cable operators (LCOs), the HC directed the TRAI to file a reply by 13th February. The LCOs have challenged the revenue share arrangement prescribed by the TRAI under the new tariff order. Lawyer Debabrata Saha Roy said: “Besides, a majority of the subscribers have not responded with their list of preferred pay channels. Under such circumstances, it would be difficult to efficiently implement the switchover.”
Packs taking on rise: TRAI
TRAI expressed its satisfaction over the progress made by all stakeholders in order to adapt to the new norms. TRAI has conducted frequent meetings with DPOs and broadcasters to oversee all implementation plans. The regulator has noted that all service providers have offered a consumer care channel on TV Channel Number 999, consumer corner on their website, started a Call Centre, released mobile apps and updated EPG displaying the MRP of each channel.
TRAI says that it carried out an extensive consumer awareness program. The regulator has been proactively educating consumers through various means like social media and SMS. This has helped in spreading awareness.
Demand for special plans for homes with multiple connections:
The telecom regulator TRAI held a press conference in New Delhi on 6 Feb where the authority said that distribution platform operators (DPOs) should launch special schemes to address the needs of homes with multiple TV connections.
TRAI officials said that these subscribers prefer a cheaper scheme for the second TV. To keep it same under new regime, TRAI has sought details of special schemes for provision of second or subsequent connection. The regulatory body expects that DPOs will declare special schemes for multiple connections within a TV home in a day or so. TRAI said it is keeping an eye on the development and will intervene if required.
CRISIL Report says price will go high:
Recently, ratings agency Crisil also published a report on price hike along the same line. TRAI refuted the report saying it is not based on focused analysis and research. According to report, the TV watching bills will, in fact, rise by 25% for most subscribers.
TRAI commented on the report: “The report is based on choosing top rated channels on all India basis and considers only one weekly report dated 25th January 2019, from TV Rating Agency, BARC. The selection of channels by subscribers is primarily driven by language, genre, region and culture. The report fails to appreciate that even among top three channels, that is Sun TV, Zee Anmol and Star Maa, the language is Tamil, Hindi and Telugu respectively.”
TRAI chairman RS Sharma said that the initial data they have received from the broadcasters show that bills have gone down by 10-15% in metros and 5-10% in non-metros.
Less popular channels struggle:
While popular Hindi GEC and sports channels have no worry as they know subscribers will buy them at higher rates, other channels are fighting for TV space.