New TV Tariff Rules Trigger Collapse Of English Genre - EcoFinBiz Blog

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New TV Tariff Rules Trigger Collapse Of English Genre

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Not many people outside parts of northern India may have heard about Dangal TV but it’s now India’s second-most-watched satellite channel.

That’s the new reality for the nation’s broadcast industry as changed tariff rules sent viewership rankings topsy-turvy. Little-known or low-ranked free channels have crept up the charts, while paid channels dropped, show data by the Broadcast Audience Research Council. Urban viewers are cutting the cord when cheaper data has made access to online movies and series on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime easier. That hurt the English entertainment genre the most. Rural audiences are happy with free-to-air stations.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India allowed subscribers to create their own bouquets and pay for whatever they want. That stemmed from the practice of creating packs by dumping unrelated satellite stations users may not want. The new rules were to come into effect with New Year and broadcasters, cable TV operators and direct-to-home companies were given three more months to comply.

As of March, about 65 percent of 100 million cable subscribers and 35 percent of 67 million DTH users had chosen the packs of their choice, according to a statement by TRAI. Consumers have to pay a minimum of Rs 130 a month for 100 free-to-air standard-definition channels. Additional Rs 20 gets 25 SD free channels more. For pay channel bouquets or a single channel, viewers have to pay extra. Broadcasters can’t bundle pay channels with free, and high-definition with standard content.

For consumers who haven’t opted for the channels of their choice, cable and DTH operators created best-fit packs to ensure that the existing monthly bill remains the same or increases marginally. That’s contrary to the objective of the regulator which hoped freedom to choose channels will bring down the monthly bill for the customers, according to executives in the broadcast and cable industry—they spoke to BloombergQuint on the condition of anonymity out of business concerns.

Broadcasters have no control and are at the mercy of cable operators, one of the people quoted earlier said. Cable operators make their own packs, not adhering to broadcaster packs and even refusing to offer al-a-carte channels if they see monthly billing has dropped, he said. In many cases, cable operators are not ready with the backend to offer consumers the choice, he said.

Still, pay TV channels have taken a hit, shows a comparison between week 52 data of 2018 and week 14 data of 2019 released by BARC. It’s based on 550 tracked channels and 40,000 metered households, and then extrapolated for India’s 197 million TV homes. The numbers threw up three key trends.

1. Clamour To Be Free To Air

Broadcasters are clamouring to be part of 100 free-to-air channels that a cable or DTH operator has to provide for a fixed fee. That ensures reach if not subscription revenue. All state-run Doordarshan channels should be part of the 100, and regional and free-to-air channels of all genres should have representation.

2. Big Blow From Free Dish

The other game-changer has been role of state-owned DD Free Dish direct-to-home service. The change in pricing framework meant a lot of pay channels available for free on Free Dish had to be taken off. That changed rankings after March 31, with many regional channels getting higher viewership, according to BARC data. The cost of being available on Free Dish also doubled compared to a few years ago to close to Rs 8 crore.

3. Digital Disruption

The English entertainment genre in the top six cities has contracted. That comes when the metro consumers are increasingly switching to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar. For example, the last season of Game of Thrones, one of the most watched television series globally, is available on Hotstar instead of a TV channel.

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