March 31, 2019, was the last day for cable and satellite subscribers / TV viewers to migrate from the old regulatory framework to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) New Tariff Order (NTO). As per TRAI, there are 170 million cable and satellite households in India of which 70 million are direct-to-home (DTH) subscribers and 100 million are cable TV consumers.
Migrating such a considerable number of customers from one system to another was always going to be a difficult task. Moreover, this migration demanded that customers also actively participate by choosing the channels they want. Local cable operators (LCO), who collect payments from subscribers are supposed to interact with them, explain the entire shift, get the names of the channels they want, and submit it to the multi-service operators (MSO).
Ajanta Bhattacharjee, general secretary of the Bengal Cable Operators Association estimates that 85 per cent of subscribers in cities and 60 per cent in rural areas have selected their preferred channels. As per his observation, subscribers in rural areas are only subscribing to the basic plan by paying the Network Carriage Fee (NCF). This gives them access to 100 FTA channels of which it is mandatory to subscribe to 25 DD channels. “Moreover, customers are asking why they need to pay Rs 130 for free-to-air channels as they were always available for free,” Bhattacharjee adds.
Chanderdeep Bhatia, joint secretary of All Delhi Cable Operators Association says 70 per cent of subscribers has chosen their channels while 30 per cent never got back to the operators. “They have either moved to DTH or resorted to cord-cutting due to the chaos.
A low migration rate is observed in Maharashtra too where, as per Arvind Prabhu, president, Maharashtra Cable Operators Foundation (MCOF), only 60 per cent of customers selected their channels, as per TRAI recommendations, while best-fit plans were made for the remaining 40 per cent.
The MSOs and LCOs work in a revenue-share business model where both parties are supposed to meet at a common point and sign the Model Interconnect Agreement (MIA). TRAI recommended that in case of a fall-back, a Standard Interconnect Agreement – 55 (MSO)-45 (LCO) per cent – revenue-share partnership deal has to be signed.