Hydrerabad: It is time for consumers to ask themselves how many channels they want to watch. Households using cable TV and DTH (direct to home) connections are likely to miss their favourite soaps and shows, starting December 29 because of Trai’s (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) new cable television regime.
Without divulging further details, the official said that the process is being worked out with broadcasters on how and which channels will be switched off gradually.
“TRAI chairman’s mandate is smooth transition with customer being given enough time. On 30th December morning nothing will be switched off. It will be gradual with multiple reminders, hand holding consumers and giving them a pack very near to the current pack, so that they don’t feel victimised.
Like for Hyderabad city, X may be the best pack, and for rural Telangana something else is the best pack. In the next few days these details will be uploaded. Customers may see a slight difference.”
Operators say the opposition from cable operators is not in the interests of consumers. Said an operator: “Consumers even after paying cannot watch their favourite channel. Why should consumers suffer if there is a fight between broadcaster and distributor platform? It is illogical and doesn’t happen in any other industry. This is an irregularity is getting corrected with the new regime ”.
A study done by BARC noted that consumers flip 50 channels and view a maximum of 20 channels. The MRP (maximum retail price) of each channel is available on the TV itself, like any other consumer product and service. It is anticipated that the price of individual channels will be reduced by the broadcasters when people stop watching the more expensive channels. Hence the Telangana operators are asking people to stop watching expensive channels.
An anxious cable operator in the state said, “Just because TRAI has changed the rule, customers will not pay more for lesser channels. Already they had to undergo hardship through digitisation of cable TV, and then the hike or choice of channels is not fair. The broadcasters have kept the MRP of popular channels high. Consumers are not aware of this major change and the suspense will continue in the new year.”
Experts also opine that this move will improve the quality of the content. The DPO who attended the meeting with the TRAI chairman said, “All distribution platforms dump all kinds of content on the consumer. Broadcaster content quality needs to be improved. People are shifting to OTT like Netflix, Amazon or Hotstar because they are not getting content of quality. With the new system, the consumer has the option to reject a channel. People have to put in effort to improve content. Quality of content will improve.”.
Meanwhile, Telangana Cable Operators and MSOs meet Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh and informed him that the new regime is a burden for both customers and operators.
The adoption of the new regime is going on at a snail’s pace as Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs - formerly known as MSOs and cable operators) in Telangana state and Andhra Pradesh are not yet ready to make the switch. Telangana state and Andhra Pradesh operators say that the new regime will increase the burden on the consumer.
According to them, Telugu channels are being provided at `40 per month currently. But if a Supreme Court order is implemented, the tariff will go up to Rs 200-300 to Rs 600.
Telangana Cable operators said pay channels will become expensive because of the court order and till all the channels become free to air, they have requested co-operation from customers. From Dec. 30, only one among Gemini, ETV, MAA TV, Zee TV will be aired, they informed.
Cable providers say consumers should not suffer because there is a fight between the broadcaster and the distributor platform.
An official from a popular digital cable provider said, “Consumers know what they want; you cannot push a consumer. We should not be going too much by cable operators’ opinion. Suspending channel depends on quality of content. The consumer just needs to decide on one group channel, like Sun group or Zee group or Star group or Eenadu. Operators are only servicing and they can’t decide consumer choice.”
Last year, many distribution platforms switched off certain channels many times. For instance, a couple of months ago, Sony was not available on TATA Sky.
The official quoted above added that there won’t be any blanket switch-off as there will be a grace period for shutdown....