An analysis of over 300 channel packs and plans announced by prominent broadcasters like Star, Zee Entertainment, Sony, Sun TV and TV18 under new TRAI tariff rules reveals that Star has the highest number of such packs.
The company, which has only 43 pay channels, has managed to create a whopping 72 packs and plans from them, under brands such as Value, Premium and so on.
At second place is TV18, which has around 50 pay channels, also has 50 channel packs.
Similarly, Zee group, which has around 55 pay channels, has come out with 48 packages under brands such as All-In-One, Family and so on.
Such a high number of channel packs has been criticized for potentially confusing consumers. So far, typical DTH and cable consumers have had to choose from only around one or two dozen packs and add-ons.
In fact, at least two DTH operators — D2h and Sun Direct — have decided to completely boycott over 100 channel packs, including all the packs of Star and most of Sony India’s bouquets, claiming that these are unwieldy.
Besides Star and Zee, Sony, which has around 25 pay channels, has come out with 28 channel packs.
Sun TV, a prominent player in the South with around 33 pay channels, has announced 26 packs.
Even a group like NDTV, which has only four channels in all, has come out with no less than six packages.
Times Network, which has 12 channels, has come out with four bouquets.
PRICING & TRAI RULES
From Feb 1, it will be mandatory for all users to either buy their channels one-by-one, or subscribe to the above packs.
The original intent of the TRAI’s Tariff Order of 2017 was to disrupt the existing pack system and offer choice to consumers to buy only those channels that they want.
For the same, the TRAI had banned broadcasters from pricing individual channels at much higher prices compared to what they were being sold at as a part of a pack.
In its explanation of the tariff order of 2017, the regulator pointed out that the individual a-la carte price of a channel was sometimes 10 times higher than what that channel would cost if purchased as part of a pack.
This, TRAI had said, was designed to force the consumer to buy only packs and not channels. In turn, this strategy would push ‘laggard’ or ‘junk’ channels of broadcasters into people’s homes and so that broadcasters could make money by selling ads on such channels.
To counter this, TRAI brought in a rule that there should not be great difference between the a-la carte (single) price of a channel and its price inside a pack. However, this rule was struck down by the Madras High Court, resulting in the current situation.
Not surprisingly, the new tariff system — as amended by the High Court — has made things even more complicated that before, with the number of packs jumping manifold.
Moreover, even under the new system, the prices of channels when purchased separately is often two or three times higher compared to buying them in packs.
In fact, in many cases, the cost of a single channel is higher than the cost of the pack that contains that channel.
A case in point is Turner Group’s Family HD pack, priced at Rs 12.50 per month. The pack contains Cartoon Network, HBO HD, Pogo, WB and CNN.
Even though you can buy all five channels in the pack for Rs 12.50 per month, the company has priced HBO HD alone at Rs 15 per month.
Similar is the case with Jaya TV’s bouquet. If you buy Jaya TV HD as a single channel, you have to pay Rs 19 per month. But if you buy a four-channel pack, you have to pay only Rs 10.50.
By far, the cheapest rates on offer under the new rules is from Discovery Networks, which has priced most of its channels in the range of Rs 1 to 4 per month, while other groups have gone as high as Rs 19 per month for a single channel.
You can read the full list of the channel packs and their prices here.