TRAI’s new tariff order will give end consumers the ‘Right to Choose’ : Rajesh Sethi, Siti Networks

There comes a time in every industry when a simple change propels it on a growth path. This change with its break-away velocity questions the set patterns and forges the industry forward. The Cable TV industry had its moment in 2012 with the commencement of digitisation. We are now on the anvil of a second such industry-defining moment with the New Tariff Order (NTO) for which digitisation acted as a catalyst.

Cable TV industry has for the most part been un-regulated. Siti Networks and some of the other large players have been trying to work with the government to maintain a level playing field for all. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been instrumental in bringing this house in order through its various initiatives. Notification of the new tariff order (NTO) is another step towards this aim.

NTO provisions are aimed to increase transparency, create level playing field and give all the power to the end consumer who will be able to finally choose what they want to watch and pay for that too. This will finally give end consumers the ‘Right to Choose’.

While doing this the NTO also has provisions to protect all key stakeholders, be it the Broadcasters, Digital Platform Operators (DPOs) like us and the Local Cable Operators (LCOs). The provisions clearly define the relationship between Broadcasters, DPOs, and LCOs to avoid ambiguities and reduce legal issues.

Channel packaging as a discipline will evolve with the implementation of NTO provisions. For example, broadcasters will aim to preserve the profitability of their non-driver channels while holding a delicate balance between the pricing of their driver channels and end-consumers ARPU. DPOs will finally be able to delineate their subscription revenues and content costs.

Broadcasters in the current framework are pushing their bouquet to DPOs. This will have to move towards creating a pull for their channels by lucrative offers. This will involve seasonal interventions and work with the DPOs to spruce up the ARPU.

Nothing comes set on a platter. There are ground challenges which will have to be resolved as change is ushered in. DPO and LCO relationship will have to move to a more transparent regime through mutually agreed Model / Standard Inter-connect agreements. Education will play an important role here. This will also have to be supported through a legal and regulatory framework which focuses on quick implementation. Apart from this compatibility of technical systems to support all the new packages and customer hierarchies will be of the essence.

Challenges aside, the introduction of the new tariff order will be a big boost for this industry. Customer empowerment is a cliched term, but it will really come into effect with the new tariff order. Effective implementation of NTO provisions will move the cable TV industry towards full regulation and plug tax leakages thus benefiting the country.

Effective audit and regular monitoring along-with education of all the stakeholders will be a key factor in giving customers the ‘Right to Choose’ their entertainment!

(The writer is chief business transformation officer at Siti Networks. Views expressed in the article are his own)