Many television consumers across India, who are yet to exercise their right of selecting the channels they want to watch, have been experiencing blackout of select pay channels. This is the latest tactic by the cable and direct-to-home (DTH) companies to speed up the migration process to the new tariff regime.
Out of the 165-170 million cable and satellite households in India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has said that only 90 million have migrated to the new regime so far.
For the uninitiated, Trai had directed the distribution operators (cable and DTH companies) to migrate their consumers on to the new tariff order regime — where the consumer will select and pay only for the channels they want to watch — by February 1.
And while Trai has asked the operators not to switch off the signals, multiple executives and consumers have confirmed to ET that some channels are being switched off. “All the distribution platforms have agreed that the best way to speed up the process is by removing some popular channels,” said a senior executive of a large multi-system operator (MSO). “We have been switching off channels in various cities; it has forced consumers out of their inertia and call their local cable operators.” Consumers across Mumbai, Kolkata, Indore, Bhopal, Agra, Gwalior and other cities have been facing this issue. “We couldn’t watch Sunday’s India-New Zealand match because our cable operator removed the sports channel from our package,” said BN Banerjee, a retired school teacher from Kolkata. Further, it is learned that broadcasters have decided to start billing as per the new tariff starting February 14 and, hence, consumers who have not decided or opted for the pay channels will be downgraded to basic free-to-air (FTA) packs.
“There will not be a blackout, but distribution platforms have taken a conscious call to downgrade subscribers to either FTA, in case of post-paid billing, or best-fit packages in case of prepaid billing, post February 14,” said the CEO of a large MSO.