Direct-to-home operators will soon be able to offer consumers individual pay channels or its own package of popular channels, doing away with the practice of only broadcaster’s bouquets being available.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has paved the way for more flexibility in channel options by asking broadcasters not to compel DTH operators to purchase bouquets and to instead give them the choice of picking individual channels too. The new regulation, issued on Monday and set to come into force from December 1, says all broadcasters must compulsorily offer all channels on an a la carte basis to DTH operators, along with the package of channels.
TRAI has also fixed the price range for a la carte pay channels. The cost of an entire bouquet on a la carte basis should not be more than 1.5 times that of the normal bouquet while the individual price of a pay channel cannot be more than three times that of the channel in a bouquet.
TRAI felt the regulation was necessary as a problem in interconnection agreements has led to a delay in the rollout of DTH and also “hampered” the growth of the sector, thereby not making the service a viable alternative to cable television. India has just 3.2 million DTH subscribers compared to 70 million cable homes. TRAI also said the new regulation would improve competition when the number of DTH operators increases to seven from the present three.
TRAI has directed broadcasters to publish their reference interconnect offer for DTH operators within 90 days, entailing rates, payment terms, security/anti-piracy requirements, subscriber base report, etc. Broadcasters will have to sign the new agreement within 45 days of the DTH operator showing interest. If they fail to reach an agreement, TRAI will facilitate the new arrangement.