A New Year of discontent awaits households subscribing to DTH (direct-to-home) television as a new regulation taking effect from January 1 will make the service costlier, reports say.
Under the new rules that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued the customers need to pay only for the channels, he or she wants to watch.
The DTH services offered by the likes of Tata Sky, DishTV, Airtel Digital, Reliance Digital, Videocon d2h, and Sun Direct will have to abide by the new rules from January 1.
Though the rules have been framed with the intention of encouraging transparency and allowing the customer to pick only the preferred channels to hopefully bringing down the cost, the real effect will be to make the services pricier for a household where each member has a different set of preferences, according to some reports.
All operators will be offering a set of discounted channels as the initial package at a basic rate of about Rs 130 to cover the subscription cost. But the catch is most of these about 100 channels will be free-to-air channels which do not have much viewership.
It's in the case of the premier and HD channels that the DTH providers can hope to make a killing.
Over the past few weeks, all the networks have announced maximum retail prices for the individual channels in case the customers want to opt for them.
The network providers have structured bouquets that include a mix of sought-after premium channels and non-popular ones.
A calculation shows that at the prices announced, a Hindi-speaking customer will pay for the basic, non-premium channels, without HD and regional channels, around Rs 450 a month. Customers of phase III and IV areas pay less than Rs 250 in the current dispensation. This steep increase is going to affect at least some households.
If a customer bought only the basic package that includes popular genres like entertainment, movies, kids, music, news, and infotainment, the additional burden would be Rs 184 for 95 pay channels, apart from the network capacity fee of Rs 100 (Rs 25 per 20 channels), estimates show.
This package would be devoid of the more popular genre of regional channels and sports. A similar combination of channels if picked up fully outside the bouquet would set back the users by Rs 800 because they miss out on the bouquet discount of 35 percent to 55 percent on individual channels.
The Economic Times quotes Vivekanand Subbaraman, an analyst at Ambit Capital, as saying: "One can expect Phase I/II subscribers to pay more but convincing price sensitive Phase III/IV subscribers to cough extra for TV services, who are currently paying Rs200-250 per month, will be a challenge."
Under Trai guidelines, the four metros fall under phase I, while cities with a population of more than 1 million are part of the phase II markets. Phase III cities are those with a population of over 1 lakh, while towns below 1 lakh form phase IV.
"There is no way consumers are going to pay extra for less number of channels just because Trai has changed the rule. Even if metro consumers agree, phase III and IV consumers, who have recently started paying double after digitization of cable TV, will create a riot if we start asking double again," the news website said quoting a worried cable operator.