TRAI RULES: Broadcasters announce 300+ channel packs, Star highest at 72, TV18, Zee at 50.
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.
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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 were 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 packs 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 a part of a pack.
In its explanation of the tariff order fo 2017, the regulator pointed out that the individual, or a-la carte, price of a channel was sometimes 10 times higher than what that channel would cost if purchased alone.
This, TRAI had said, was designed to force the consumer to buy only packs and not channels. In turn, the strategy was designed to push ‘laggard’ or ‘junk’ channels of broadcasters into people’s homes and so that they could make money by selling ads on such channels.
However, TRAI’s rule that there should not be great difference between the price at which a channel was sold individually and that at which it was being sold in a bouquet was struck down by the Madras High Court.
As a result, the new tariff system has made things even more complicated, with the number of packs jumping manifold.
Even under the new system, the price 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 a 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.
While you can buy all five channels in a pack for Rs 12.50 per month, you will have to shell out Rs 15 per month if you just wanted to buy one of the five channels — HBO HD.
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.