Popular TV channels’ pricing negates benefits to viewers

It may be recalled that the government, through its regulatory agency Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) sought to grant television viewers across the length and breadth of India, the option to view and pay only for the channels that they really desire to view and cancel subscription of the rest.

This entails a base price of about INR 130 with 18% GST added to it. The subscribers with dish or set top box can choose either a consolidated package with their favourite channels plus the other channels that they do not need. These packages are reportedly priced reasonably.

However, viewers desirous of viewing certain channels from one pack and some other from other packs can also have their way, with varying costs.

To the viewers’ dismay, the television channels have apparently poured cold water over the viewers’ notion that the viewership costs may come down with selection of some channels while omitting the rest of the pay channels.

Bengaluru city has a sizeable population of other-language speaking people, such as Tamils, Telugus, Malayalees, Hindi-speakers, besides Kannadigas. Popular cable operators (set top box) such as Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) offer packages that include popular channels plus other channels as supplements, with Sony, Star and Zee featuring in three different packs.

If a viewer opts for certain (most popular) individual channels from different packs, the cost of viewing would rise. For example, a viewer paying INR 350 per month under the existing regime selects the most popular channels from different packs that are priced highest, the total cost of the selections would be more than INR 450.

A Kannada-speaking viewer in Bengaluru, for the sake of more choices, selects the most popular channels including Colors Kannada, Star Suvarna, Udaya and Zee. The total would cross INR 400. If this viewer selects a couple of popular Hindi, English and sport channels (Sony, Star, Zee), the total would breach INR 500. The popular channels are priced in the range of INR 15 – 19 each.

TRAI had allayed fears about the rise in cost of television viewership, but the agency needs to consider all possible scenarios and if possible try to get the channels to reduce its individual pricing. Till then, the viewer will have to bear with the higher prices.



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