Here is what you have to pay for cable services now

Though the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out with a claimer on February 12, 2019 about implementation of new regulatory framework for broadcasting and cable services to bring down your monthly bill, confusion still prevails among subscribers, writes Suman

However, as per the global analytical company CRISIL report, TRAI’s new regime is likely to cost a customer more than what they were paying earlier. According to the report, the monthly bill can go up by 25 per cent from 230-240 to 300 for consumers who will subscribe to the top ten channels in terms of viewership.

When contacted Secretary TRAI, S.K.Gupta told on February 12 that the TRAI had in March 2017, notified the ‘New Regulatory Framework’ for Broadcasting and Cable services. The new framework came into effect on 29th December 2018. However, to provide sufficient time to subscribers for exercising subscribers to exercising their options, the Authority provided time up to 31st January 2019. All the Distribution Platform Owners! (DPOs) were required to migrate the subscribers as per their choice with effect from 1st February 2019.

There are approximately 100 million cable service TV homes and 67 million DTH TV homes in the country. As on February 12, 2019, approximately 65 per cent of the subscribers of the cable services and 35 per cent subscribers of the DTH services have already exercised the options. S.K.Gupta observed that it was brought to the notice of the Authority that as the system of selecting channels/bouquet by the subscribers had been introduced for first time in the country, some subscribers are facing difficulties in selecting the channels/bouquet of their choice. In some cases, LCOs have not been able to reach out to subscriber to create awareness among them and collect the options.

Some subscribers may be required to go to nearest Point of Sale (POS) for exercising their option as they did not have access to IT facility or are not comfortable in using IT system to exercise their options. A few cases have been reported recently where pay channels of the subscribers who have not exercised the options have been deactivated.

Such incidences are causing hardship to the subscribers. He informed that the Direct To Home (DTH) service providers, Multi System Operators (MSOs) and Head end Into The Sky (HITS) operators are collectively referred as Distribution Platform Owners (DPOs).

The Authority was of the view that though the new framework promotes consumer choice and enables the subscribers to pay for what they wish to view but ‘non-exercise of the option’ should not create any inconvenience to the subscribers. Accordingly, the Authority requests all DPOs to create ‘Best Fit Plan’ for its subscribers who have not exercised their options yet.

The ‘Best Fit Plan’ shall be designed based on Consumers’ usage pattern and language spoken. It should preferably be a blended combination of various Genres, while making ‘Best Fit Plan’ for a subscriber, DPOs should ensure that payout per month of the ‘Best Fit Plan’ generally does not exceed the payout per month of existing tariff plan of the subscriber.

The DPOs should continue to provide various user-friendly methods to subscribers to exercise their choice. These methods may include personal contact by Local Cable Operator, calling on Call Centre Number, using Mobile Apps or through Website. DPOs should also continue to generate awareness among the subscribers regarding new Regulatory framework, its benefits and methods to exercise the option to choose the channels of their choice.

The subscribers who have taken long term packs will continue to avail the services for the contracted period. However, they have freedom to choose the channels of their choice under the new regulatory framework and in case if they exercise this option, money for the remaining period shall be adjusted for their future use. In view of the larger public interest, the subscribers who do not exercise their options shall be migrated to a ‘Best Fit Plan’. The subscribers’ old plan shall continue till either subscriber exercise his or her option, or he or she is migrated to the ‘Best Fit Plan’.

March 31 new deadline

The TRAI has extended time up to 31st March 2019 for exercising the option by such subscribers who have not exercised option yet. Subscribers will be free to change their ‘Best Fit Plan’ at any date and time on or before 31st March 2019 and DPOs shall convert their ‘Best Fit Plan’ into the desired pack (channel/Bouquet) within 72 hours from the time choice exercised by the Subscriber. There will be no ‘lock-in period’ for the subscribers till 31st March 2019 who have been migrated to ‘Best Fit Plan’ by DPOs. 10.

It is learnt that broadcasters have fixed the maximum retail price for each channel, while cable TV or DTH operators like Airtel and Tata Sky have created their own package deals for customers. All network operators and broadcasters are required by TRAI to have a base package with 100 standard definition channels. Customers can choose these free-to-air (FTA) channels from a list of several bouquet offers. This will cost the viewers a maximum of Rs 130, excluding Goods & Service Tax (GST). You can buy a pay channel separately over this package at its individual cost. There are 330 pay TV channels and 535 FTA channels, according to TRAI.

The TRAI has listed the price of all pay channels as well as bouquet deals provided by all broadcasters. No broadcaster can charge more than the MRP of a channel, although they can offer a discounted prices to sweeten their offer. To add pay channels to one’s list, the customer will first have to remove the same number of FTA channels.

The overall number of channels in a base package cannot be more than 100. Customers can add channels by paying 20 for every 25 extra channels. For instance, if you pay 150, excluding GST, you get access to 125 channels.

With this, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s new regulatory regime for cable operators and DTH companies has come into play from the month of February 2019. The new rules seek to make it easier for customers to choose what they wish to watch on television, and pay only for the channels that they prefer, rather than be bound by packs decided by the cable operator or DTH company. It also appears that despite TRAI’s directive of a smooth rollout, some customers of Airtel DTH did face a black out of their TV channels. It is learnt that the cost of paid channels will be extra in your bill. It will be 130 (NCF) + price of paid channels + 18 per cent GST.

Switching from the earlier modes to the new tariff guidelines by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has not been an easy affair for the customers and service providers. However, TRAI has said that the move to the new mode is halfway through with 90 million homes — 65 million cable TV and 25 million DTH users — registering their choice with the operators.

The new tariff regime was implemented on February 1, before which the regulators had urged subscribers to take their pick of the channels on offer. The new tariff regime has been brought about with an intention of reducing subscription bills for TV and DTH connections. However, consumers are still splitting hairs on whether that has been fulfilled.

“Out of the total 170 million TV homes (which includes 70 million DTH homes and 100 million cable TV homes), about 90 million homes have already registered their choice with the operators, which is a big number. According to TRAI’s new rules, subscribers will have to choose their own monthly channels or packs. It has not been a seamless process as it left a lot of people wondering how to make the switch, or what the selection process is or the amount that’s required to be paid. The regulator then said that they would roll out awareness programmes on social media as well as advertise about the same.

Additionally, TRAI also clarified that network capacity fee (NCF) is not mandatory for subscribers with multiple connections. It also clarified that the regulation also provides a capping of 130 as NCF for 100 standard definitions (SD) channels and 20 for the next 25 SD channels.

However, as per a CRISIL report, TRAI’s new regime is likely to cost a customer more than what they were paying earlier. According to the report, the monthly bill can go up 25 per cent from 230-240 to 300 for consumers who will subscribe to the top ten channels in terms of viewership. If one chooses the top five channels, then the bill would be less.

You will have the option of choosing HD or SD channel when creating your pack. However one HD channel will count as 2 SD channels in your pack. So if you have chosen 10 HD channels in your list of 100, then it will actually be 80 channels, because 10HD=20SD channels. Eventually a subscriber ends up paying more than what he or she has currently been paying.