Tata Sky, the DTH service from the Tata Group, has become the first DTH platform to put into effect the amended TRAI tariff order, with only hours to go before the March 1 deadline.
Other DTH operators are likely to follow suit in the next few hours.
The first step towards implementing the new tariff rules, also called NTO 2.0, is to reduce the network charge or NCF.
Tata Sky customers who are logging into their selfcare portal can now see a reduced NCF.
Earlier, anyone who activated more than 70 channels of his or her own choice had to shell out Rs 150 plus tax, with the rates going up by Rs 20 plus tax for every additional 25 channels.
Now, customers can see that their network charge remains static at Rs 130 plus tax until they have crossed the 200 channel limit. Beyond 200 channels, Tata Sky customers will have to pay an extra Rs 30 plus tax as NCF. Under the amended TRAI tariff order, the maximum network charge that any cable or DTH operator can levy is Rs 160 plus tax, no matter how many channels the subscriber has activated.
Tata Sky will also remove most of the existing channel packs from its selfcare portal overnight.
These will include most of the channel packs from big broadcasters like Zee, Star, Sony, Sun and TV18, as well as most of Tata Sky’s own curated and base packs.
The amended tariff order also requires all cable and DTH operators to remove all channel packs that contain any channel priced above Rs 12.
While broadcasters like Zee and Star have refused to come up with alternative packages, players like Tata Sky, Dish TV and Airtel Digital are likely to come up with new packages in conformity with the revised guidelines published by TRAI on January 1.
At present, nearly all channel packs — whether designed by the channel owners or the cable/DTH operator — contain at least one channel which is priced at Rs 17 or 19.
As such, all these packs will become illegal to be offered from midnight, and any cable or DTH operator who continues to offer them can end up facing fines and other penalties from TRAI.
UPDATE: Most cable and DTH operators have failed to implement TRAI Tariff Order as on March 1 8 AM in perhaps the first such incident in industry history.
Interestingly, 10 cable operators have been given exemption from having to reduce their network charge by the Kerala High Court.
These cable operators are Siti Networks, Hathway, GTPL, IN Digital, Den Networks, Fastway, Indian Cable Net, Asianet Satcom, Kerala Vision and UCN.
Out of these, Siti Networks has already decided to slash its network charge in line with those offered by others such as Tata Sky. It is believed that Siti felt that charging a higher NCF from customers will prompt its customers to shift to a competing cable service or a DTH platform.
It is not clear what the other nine are planning to do. However, it is likely that at least some of them may fall in line due to the fear of losing customers to DTH and other cable platforms.
Even if these operators do not slash their NCF in line with the new tariff order, they will have to remove all the channel packs with channels priced above Rs 12.
Customers who want to continue to see channels priced above Rs 12 — such as Star Plus, Zee TV, Sony, Colors, Asianet and Sun TV — have to activate these channels separately from Sunday.
They can do so by getting in touch with their cable operator or logging into the customer care portal of their cable or DTH network.
However, it should be kept in mind that each of these channels will cost them Rs 19 plus tax, or Rs 22.42 per month.
Broadcasters have not cut the prices of these channels, hoping that an ongoing court case will turn out in their favor.
The court case is likely to be heard next week in the Bombay High Court, and then in the Supreme Court.
If the judgment goes against the channel owners, they will cut the prices of most of these channels to Rs 12, except some of the sports channels — which are likely to continue to be priced at a premium.