Zee Entertainment and Star India, two of India’s biggest broadcasters, have come out with introductory web-pages on the upcoming TRAI tariff change coming into effect on December 29.
The prices were already available to DTH and cable companies as part of pro-forma legal agreements. However, the opening of the webpages indicates that these rates are more or less final and there is very little chance for a revision in the immediate future.
On its website, Star India does not list the prices of the channels individually (A-la-Carte), and only gives the prices of the packages, while Zee Entertainment has given both the individual prices as well as bouquet or pack prices.
Star will offer four packs in each language.
Two of them will be for standard subscribers and the other two for HD subscribers.
The ‘value’ pack for standard subscribers has been priced at a maximum of Rs 49 per month, while that for HD subscribers has been priced at a maximum of Rs 85 per month.
The ‘premium’ package for standard definition subscribers has been priced at Rs 79, while that for HD subscribers has been priced at Rs 120.
The primary difference between ‘value’ and ‘premium’ packages of Star India is that premium packs include English language channels as well as all seven sports channels.
Value packs primarily comprise Star’s Indian channels, plus National Geographic, National Geographic Wild and four sports channels — Star Sports 2, Star Sports 3, Star Sports Hindi and Star Sports First.
Premium pack users get Star Sports 1 and Star Sports Select 1 & 2, as well as Star Movies and other English channels, in addition to the ‘value’ channels. Hindi movie channel Star Gold Select is also exclusive to Premium packs.
Zee offers two packs in markets where it has a strong presence, such as in Hindi, Marathi and Bengali, and three in markets where it has limited presence, such as Malayalam and Tamil.
You can see synopsis of Zee’s packages below:
Like in case of Star, the main difference is in terms of the presence of English language channels.
The ‘Family’ pack, Zee’s equivalent of ‘value’, comes with all the Indian channels, while the ‘All-in-1’ packs come with English channels such as &Flix, &Prive and Wion.
Other broadcasters like Sony are yet to come up with a consumer-focused web page giving details of their packs, even though the details can be seen in their legal documents.
Meanwhile, the prices announced by the broadcasters has come as a shock to many cable operators, especially those in rural areas.
In rural areas, cable operators typically get only Rs 100-150 per connection.
If the MSO charges Rs 153 (Rs 130 plus tax) as its network charge or base charge, the consumer will have nothing left to buy pay channels with.
As such, many local cable operators in rural areas are hoping that MSOs will come up with a network charge of around Rs 118, including tax.
Still, they are clueless about how to provide the five or so ‘must have’ regional channels, two or three premium Hindi channels, Hollywood channels and at least three or four sports channels, as each of these channels now cost at least Rs 15.
Local cable operators are also unhappy that they will no longer be able to get a share of the content fees or pay channel charges.
Under the existing system, local cable operators keep about half of the total money paid by a subscriber, while the other half is shared by the MSO feed provider and channel owners.
However, if cable operators have to work with the prices announced by the broadcasters, the revenue shares will have to be reversed: Channel owners will have to be given 50%, with the LCO and the MSO splitting the other half.
Cable operators are hoping that channel owners will be forced in coming days to reduce their tariff, after seeing that most consumers, especially in rural areas, have not signed up for their channels.
Meanwhile, as a counter strategy, most of the DTH providers and cable MSOs are planning to offer between 250-400 free-to-air channels to their subscribers as part of a ‘base pack’ that will cost only around Rs 150.
It is hoped that such a high number of free-to-air channels will help consumers get over the sudden loss of many popular pay channels on December 29.
Operators also expect the Supreme Court to come to their rescue in coming days by reinstating a TRAI rule that will, in effect, reduce the price of popular channels from around Rs 15 to less than Rs 5.