Despite repeated assertions by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the implementation of the new tariff order is proceeding at a sluggish pace. Sources in the know reveal that less than 50 per cent of the consumers’ choice has been recorded across cable-digital and direct-to-home (DTH) platforms.
In a meeting held on Monday in Delhi, TRAI reiterated that the implementation of the order has to be completed within the migration timeline of February 1. Failing this, distribution platform operators (DPOs) would face consequences ranging from blackout by broadcasters to licence cancellation/suspension.
“The regulator made it clear that DPOs failing to implement the order within the given timeline will face blackout (by broadcasters). It also said that it will suggest to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that licences of defaulter DPOs be revoked,” said a source close to the development.
With the exception of Tata Sky, DPOs across the country have successfully received the choice of nearly 50 per cent of their customers. Tata Sky has moved Delhi High Court against the Trai tariff order, which is to be heard on Wednesday, and hence, has not commenced actively converting subscribers to the new regime.
Dish TV, say sources, has received choice from around 35 per cent of its consumers, while Airtel DTH has got responses from less than 50,000 of its subscriber base of 14.78 million (as on September 30, 2018).
Other DPOs have managed to collect consumer choice from 40-50 per cent of their subscriber base. Given that the migration deadline is February 1, DPOs are severely lagging in the implementation progress. Sources reveal that while the tardy progress is partly due to the delay in implementation by the platform operators, there is also significant consumer inertia to migrate.
Cable and DTH operators have since mid-December deployed initiatives to facilitate conversion to the new regime. “In order to migrate to the new tariff order, consumer has various options to exercise his choice of channels through our consumer/LCO mobile applications and web portal. Extensive LCO/distributor awareness programmes are under progress wherein the partners are explained in clear terms the benefits they would get in the overall value chain. Prepaid system for cable subscription partners, the most preferred billing option under the new tariff order, has been successfully rolled out during the quarter in select markets,” said DEN Networks Chief Executive Officer (CEO) S N Sharma.
Others like Dish TV are using multiple consumer touchpoints like television, website, social media, interactive voice response, and call centre to educate subscribers and create awareness about the new tariff order.
Anil Dua, group CEO, Dish TV, adds, “We are following Trai guidelines, keeping in mind the interests of our customers. At the moment, we are taking note of customer preferences and have developed automated tools on all our touchpoints for them to record their options. On top of this, we are planning to provide suggested combinations of broadcaster’s packs basis their preferences.”
Anticipating some amount of consumer apathy, SITI Cable had proactively advanced the deadline for its consumers. Instead of February 1, the operator urged its subscribers to make the choice by January 21. The cable operator deployed communication tools like education videos on features of the order, calculation examples for the packages, pay channel prices, and how to register choice of channels through SITI’s mobile app – My SITI. In order to incentivise channel choice registration through the app, SITI also offered rewards and gifts for the same.