New Delhi: TRAI’s latest recommendations on Platform Services offered by DTH Operators came as a blow to the industry that is already tottering under the Post NTO scenario with subscribers junking the platforms to switch to OTT owing to high cost. Despite this DTH operators had an edge over others by offering an array of Platform Services that helped them towards increasing their ARPU.
TRAI in its recommendation to the ministry of information and broadcasting recommended the ministry to stop the broadcasting of delayed feeds of existing channels, branded as +1 channels, on DTH and cable platforms, and also suggested a cap of 15 such services per platform thus advising the ministry in favour of preventing DTH operators from carrying popular serials, films and other licensed content through an array of Value added services on their in-house channels.
The move to cap platform services is set to disrupt the revenue pattern of all the DTH Operators majorly as they are hugely dependant on such customised variety of third-party sourced programs like Comedy, Wellness, Spiritual, Movies, Yoga, Fitness, Cooking, Kids etc. to amplify their revenues.
For instance, Tata Sky offers service such as All Time Classics, comprising retro comedy serials such as Yeh Jo Hai Zindgai, Zabaan Sambalke, Nukkad and so on, from the Doordarshan era. The same programs are also available on Airtel Digital under the name of Comedy Gali. Airtel Digital also has channels dedicated to short films, and a horror channel that contain third-party content such as The Zee Horror Show. Most of the DTH and cable networks also run film channels comprising Bollywood hits.
According to the new recommendations, platform services should not contain anything that is not exclusive to the platform. In other words, if a film has to be aired on it, it has to be exclusive to that platform and cannot be found on any other channel or platform.
“The programme transmitted by the DTH operator as a platform service shall be exclusive and the same shall not be permitted to be shared directly or indirectly with any other Distribution Platform Operator (DPO)..[and] shall not directly or indirectly include any registered TV channel or Doordarshan channel or foreign TV channel.
“Time-shift feed of registered TV channels (such as +1 services) shall not be allowed as a platform service,” said TRAI’s recommendations.
However, the decision comes as music to the ears of Broadcasters as they have been complaining that they are forced to jump through hoops to obtain channel licenses, while DTH and cable operators are able to start and operate their channels as and when they like without any restrictions. The move will also undermine the superiority of DTH Operators over MSOs in terms of offering a variety of content options that can be accessed at their convenience, helping subscribers to skip the appointment viewing culture.
With TRAI imposing a cap of 15 services per DTH service, presently Tata Sky runs 43 PS channels, followed by Airtel Digital with 25, Dish and D2h with 20 each and Sun Direct runs 7 PS channels. Such channels assure huge margins to the operators as the content for these services comes at a comparatively cheaper rate through the form of bulk acquisition from the market as most of them are already exploited in other platforms.
Industry sources reveal that DTH operators are expected to contest the recommendation with the Information and Broadcasting ministry, at least to relax the capping limit of Platform Services.