DTH, cable TV bills likely to increase under TRAI’s MRP regime: Crisil

Credit rating agency Crisil has said that the monthly TV bills are likely to go up under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) new tariff regime for the broadcasting sector.

According to Crisil, the network capacity fee (NCF) and channel prices announced by broadcasters and distributors under TRAI’s new guidelines could increase the monthly bill of most subscribers of television channels.

The rating agency noted that its analysis assumes a scenario where subscribers opt for the top 10 channels by viewership in addition to the free to air (FTA) ones.

TRAI’s new regulatory framework for broadcasting and cable services industry is intended to usher in transparency and uniformity and will afford far greater freedom of choice to viewers.

More than 90% of TV viewers flip 50 or fewer channels, and the new rules will let them subscribe to what they want and not be saddled with channels they are not interested in.

The regime, which came into effect on 1st February, will benefit popular channels and hasten the adoption of over-the-top (OTT or content providers who stream media over the internet, such as Netflix and Hotstar) platforms, and will be a mixed bag for viewers and distributors.

Says Sachin Gupta, Senior Director, Ratings, “Our analysis of the impact of the regulations indicates a varied impact on monthly TV bills. Based on current pricing, the monthly TV bill can go up by 25% from Rs 230-240 to Rs 300 per month for viewers who opt for the top 10 channels, but will come down for those who opt up to top 5 channels.”

Crisil also stated that the new regime could drive consolidation in the broadcasting industry because content will clearly be the king and key differentiator. Subscription revenues of broadcasters are expected to rise 40% to Rs 94 per subscriber per month compared with Rs 60-70 now.

With viewers likely to opt for popular channels, large broadcasters will have greater pricing power. Conversely, broadcasters with less-popular channels will find it tough to piggyback on packages, and the least popular ones will hardly have a business case and could go off-air.

For distributors (DTH and cable operators), the new regulations are a mixed bag. While content cost will become a pass-through, protecting them from fluctuations, they may lose out on the benefits of value-added services such as bundling content across broadcasters, customisation, and placement revenue.

Currently, most distributors are charging NCF at the cap rate of Rs 130 per month. Similarly, broadcasters have priced subscription for the most popular pay channels at the cap rate of Rs 19 per month.

But these are early days and the situation may evolve with prices charged by broadcasters and distributors declining depending on market forces, viewership and competitive intensity.

Says Nitesh Jain, Director, Ratings, “In all this, OTT platforms could emerge as the big beneficiary because many viewers could shift because of rising subscription bills. And low data tariffs also encourages viewership on OTT platforms.”