Star’s Sanjay Gupta on tariff order, discount cap, new sports channels, and ratings blackout

MUMBAI: The maximum retail price (MRP) and the bouquet rates will have to undergo a change if the Supreme Court rules in favour of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) special leave petition (SLP) seeking dismissal of Madras High Court decision that set aside the 15% cap in bouquet rates.

The regulator had recently moved the Supreme Court against the Madras HC decision since there was an ambiguity in the industry whether or not the discount cap is valid.

The regulator has contended that Madras HC decision is legally void in the light of the Supreme Court judgement upholding the tariff order and the interconnection regulation.

In an interaction with reporters, Star India MD Sanjay Gupta noted that the discount cap on bouquets is not valid as of today. However, the final decision rests with the apex court.

“Both a la carte and bouquet pricing will need to change in case the SC rules that there is a 15% discount cap on bouquets. We are waiting for the court’s decision. We will adapt to it if it happens. But there will be a shift in pricing again if that were to happen,” Gupta said.

He further stated that the tariff order will bring about transparency in the system, empower customers, and add more value to the industry. The TV broadcast sector will come on par with other sectors where MRP is the norm.

“The biggest change that is happening is transparency and power to the consumer through this tariff order,” he noted.

According to Gupta, the consumer will not have any difficulty in moving to the new regime. However, the distribution value chain needs to be ready to adapt to the new regime. “I think there will be a lot of learning experience over the next two to four weeks. But the good thing in this country is that people learn very quickly,” Gupta said.

He cited the example of telecom sector where people were not used to recharging their phones through digital or retail shops. However, mobile phones and recharging have become second nature to everyone.

Talking about Star’s pricing strategy, Gupta said that the broadcaster wants to deliver more value to the consumers. The broadcaster has created base bouquets for different regions comprising of GEC, movie, sports and infotainment content. The price differs from region to region and is in the range of Rs 25 for Tamil base pack to Rs 49 for the Hindi base pack.

“We are offering great value to consumers at Rs 49. This includes GEC, movies, sports, and infotainment. We have tried to keep the price affordable so that every consumer has access to this content,” Gupta stated.

The tariff order will bring about the biggest change in the way sports content is being offered. Gupta noted that consumers are paying lot more for sports content because of transparency and tiering issues. Sports has always been at the higher end of the packing tier thereby making out of reach for mass customers.

“Sports has been built on the back of few consumers watching it at a very high price. What we are saying is that a lot more people should buy sports but at a lot cheaper prices. This is not a way to earn more revenue for us. This is a way to ensure fundamentally a lot more sports is consumed which they deserve,” Gupta averred.

He also announced that Star Sports 1 Kannada will be launched shortly followed by Star Sports 1 Bengali, Star Sports 1 Malayalam, and Star Sports 1 Marathi. The broadcaster is awaiting licences to launch these channels.

“We launched Star Sports in Hindi followed by Tamil. Recently, we added Star Sports 1 Telugu. We are launching Star Sports in Kannada followed by Bengali, Malayalam, and Marathi. We are trying to make sports accessible to every consumer in their language at an affordable price,” he said.

On the MRP of the channels, Gupta said that the content that has mass requirement had been priced at a minimal rate within the constraint of the investment that is made in each of the businesses.

The deadline for shifting to the new regime is 29 December. Gupta feels that DTH with 60 million consumers is ready since it has been used to this system since inception. The cable is ready from the technology point of view, however, from people point of view they are getting ready.

Gupta foresees that there will be some chaos in the beginning, however, everything will settle down for the better in a few weeks time as it happened at the time of decision.

On the TV rating blackout, Gupta said that the BARC board has to take a final decision. He further stated that due to changes in the distribution system the ratings that will come out will not capture the ground reality.

In terms of offering for the customers, Gupta said that the distribution platform operators (DPOs) can make their own bouquets. They can also combine bouquets of different broadcasters.

He also said that the reach of channels will not drop if the content is good. “If you have great content then people will watch it. We will get feedback on how our content is performing. We feel it is a great opportunity to build consumer franchise,” he added.

Star has mounted a multi-lingual marketing campaign to inform customers about its offering. It has created TVCs in Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Marathi to inform about the bouquet. The campaign, which is currently on-air, will run for the next several weeks.

“We have launched a campaign across eight languages. We are doing a big digital push on Hotstar and other vehicles. We are trying to simplify the communication,” Gupta stated.

Star India has unleashed a nation-wide multi-media, multi-starrer campaign to bring the idea of how unbelievably affordable the Star Value Pack offerings are. Megastars like Aamir Khan, Mohanlal, Kamal Hassan, Nagarjuna, MS Dhoni, Bengali movie star Dev, Kannada film star Darshan Thoogudeep, Swapnil Joshi and more are spreading the message to educate the consumers across the nation. They will be joined by prominent Star Network television faces like Divyanka Tripathi, Gautam Rode, Sharad Malhotra, Bhumika Gurung, Sushant Singh and more.

In addition to the Star Value Pack, the broadcaster is giving consumers the choice to select the Star Premium Pack that includes the Star Value Pack content as well as the best of international entertainment, movies, lifestyle and marquee sporting events such as Premier League, Grand Slam events and Formula 1. Available in seven languages, the Star Premium Pack caters to the requirements of the discerning viewer.

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