Airtel Digital has become the latest DTH operator to update its channel prices according to the new TRAI rules.
With this, practically all DTH and bigger cable companies except two have come out with new plans and prices to comply with TRAI’s tariff order issued in July this year.
Even as Airtel Digital updated the prices of its individual channels, the company does not seem to have updated the prices and configuration of its channel packs and add-ons.
Under the new rules that came into effect today, DTH and cable operators cannot sell any TV channel or package at rates that are higher than those determined by the channel owner.
As a result, nearly all the channels available on DTH and cable platforms have seen a huge price correction today.
The highest price of a single channel on Airtel Digital has come down to Rs 22.42, including taxes.
Earlier, Airtel Digital was charging as high as Rs 65 per month for some of the channels like Star Sports and Ten Sports. These have now been brought down to Rs 20-22 per month.
However, like in case of Dish TV, Airtel Digital too seems not to be offering any discounts on the prices offered by broadcasters.
All prices charged by broadcasters like Star and Zee have been passed on to consumers with tax.
Hence, channels that are priced at Rs 19 by broadcasters are priced at Rs 22.42 by the DTH provider, including the 18% GST, while those priced at Rs 1 are being offered at Rs 1.18.
Interestingly, Airtel continues to offer dedicated sports packs, movie packs and so on, which has become more or less impossible due to the pricing announced by broadcasters.
It is expected that Airtel will revamp its package details shortly, and start offering the packs that have been designed by players like Star India, Zee Entertainment and Sony. Dedicated packs for sports, movies, music etc are likely to go.
Other operators too have chosen to simply resell the packs announced by broadcasters, such as Star Value, Zee Family, TV18 Budget and so on.
This is because channel providers have priced their individual channels in such a manner that DTH and cable companies can no longer use them to create new packs, and must instead resell the packs that have been designed by the channel owners.
This has been done to ensure that customers buy all the packs of the broadcasters and do not get to pick and choose what they want to watch.
Broadcasters believe that if customers start picking and choosing their channels, it would affect the viewership of their ‘weaker’ channels, which will impact their advertising revenue.
TATA SKY, SUN DIRECT HOLD OUT
With Airtel also falling in line with TRAI’s order, only two big distributors — Tata Sky and Sun Direct — remain to comply with TRAI order.
The regulator had asked all cable and DTH operators to update their channel and pack prices in line with the new rules by midnight yesterday.
Similarly, TRAI has asked all cable and DTH operators to reach out to 30% of their subscribers by January 7 and know their preferred channels under the new tariff scheme.
By January 14, they have to reach out to 60% of their subscribers and get to know their preferred channels for activation.
The preferred channels of each customer have to be activated by January 31, so that all customers move on to the new tariff regime by February 1.
It is not clear how Tata Sky and Sun Direct plan to approach the directive from the regulator.
Tata Sky has won a temporary reprieve from punishment thanks to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal — the quasi judicial body that serves as a court of appeal against TRAI decisions.
The TDSAT has asked TRAI not to impose any punitive measures on Tata Sky for failing to comply with its directions till January 10.
However, it is likely that the Supreme Court will soon take up and consolidate with itself all the various cases going on in this matter at various High Courts and the TDSAT, and give a binding judgment on the whole tariff order.
Players like Tata Sky have legally challenged the tariff order claiming that TRAI’s directive that the DTH provider cannot sell a channel at prices higher than those decided by the channel owner is not fair.
TRAI has, on its part, said that DTH and cable operators are in the nature of retailers and distributors of a good (TV channel) and that they must not sell the item at higher than MRP.