Most of the channel packs currently available to cable and DTH customers are likely to disappear on Mar 1, given that broadcasters like Star, Sony and Zee have missed a 45-day window for making them complaint to new rules.
This means that consumers who are currently subscribed to packs from Star, Zee, Colors and other broadcasters will be forced to either switch to packages from their cable/DTH operators, or activate the channels they want one-by-one.
According to TRAI’s new rules published on Jan 1, broadcasters — such as Star India, Zee Entertainment and Sony Pictures Networks — are supposed to inform the public 45 days before they make any change to their channel or pack prices or composition.
This means that if these broadcasters are planning to change their channel or pack prices from Mar 1, they should have informed the public and the regulator by at least January 15.
However, as of today — January 16 — almost none of the broadcasting companies have informed the public of a change in their channel and pack prices from Mar 1.
Without making any change to the existing channel and pack prices, these broadcasters will not be able to continue to offer most of the existing packs due to new pricing norms that kick in on Mar 1.
Under these norms, no channels priced above Rs 12 can be sold as part of a channel pack. However, most of the existing packs contain channels priced above Rs 12.
As a result, either the packs have to be refiled after taking the channels out, or the price of these channels have to be brought below Rs 12. Either way, these changes should have been notified yesterday.
But none of the big broadcasters have either announced a reduction in the prices of their popular channels or a change in the composition of their packs.
This means that, on Mar 1, these broadcasters will no longer be able to offer the existing packs as they missed the 45-day window.
For example, if they announce the pricing change on January 20, they can implement the pricing change only on March 5. So, from Mar 1 to Mar 5, one of these popular channels can be sold as part of any bouquet or package.
The delay in announcing new prices for channels will make most of the packs unworkable, and customers will have to either buy channels one-by-one, or depend on the packs created by cable and DTH operators.
Incidentally, this 45-day notice requirement applies only to broadcasters like Star and Sony, and not to cable and DTH companies like Hathway and Tata Sky. As such, operators like Tata Sky and Dish TV can reconstitute their packs closer to the Mar 1 deadline.
TRAI secretary SK Gupta said it was up to the broadcasters to decide how they wanted to market their channels.
“The flexibility has been given to the broadcasters to file a change [in their channel and bouquet prices],” Gupta said.
“If someone doesn’t file a change, the old tariff that they have filed [previously] will stand, subject to compliance with the amended regulation,” he said. However, he added, if any existing plan fails to meet compliance requirements under the new rules — such as the Rs 12 rule — such bouquets will not be allowed to be offered from March 1.
“Anything that is not in compliance with the regulatory framework [from March 1] will definitely not happen,” he said.
Gupta also pointed out that broadcasters need not file updated prices and composition for a channel pack if they have no intention of offering that bouquet from March 1.
The new rules were framed by TRAI after widespread complaint that broadcasters had increased their channel prices sharply after they were given full freedom to determine the price of their channels under TRAI’s tariff order of 2017.