Dear Sir,

We are currently in the process of upgrading the channel capacity upgradations at our headend. We also wish to revise our bouquet prices accordingly.

Please clarify the latest tariff order applicable to MSOs? Any other suggestions relating to pricing will be valuable to us.

Our network covers both DAS-3 and DAS-4 territories here in Port Blair, Andaman Nicobar Islands.

The Andaman Islands are a unique place with end subscribers demanding content in almost all Indian languages. Hindi is viewed unanimously even among South Indian subscribers. Hence, we are forced to subscribe to all languages from a particular Broadcaster (say STAR or SONY or ZEE). We feel since we are not quite connected to real-time trends in Mainland India, we are being dominated by Broadcasters pushing for higher prices every year during the renewal of subscription agreement.

We do not charge any carriage fee for any of the Broadcasters. How much can we actually demand? What is the ongoing market trend in Mainland India? We have a total subscriber count close to 50,000.

Thanks & Regards

Ashwin, By E-mail.

Thank you for your detailed brief on the cable TV situation in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Pay channel prices have always been a major issue in the DAS Phase 3 & 4 areas, where the subscribers' capacity to pay is much lower than in the metro cities and towns. However, the price of pay channels is uniform throughout the country and there are no discounts for rural consumers. A possible solution is for you to offer a wider variety of FTA channel. Today, most broadcasters share almost 60% of their Pay channel content, on FTA channels. Once consumers get hooked onto FTA channels, they may not opt for expensive Pay channels.

You will be happy to know that the new TRAI tariff order demands that all broadcasters provide transparent and uniform rates to all cable networks anywhere in India and irrespective of the number of subscribers on the network. Broadcasters can offer discounts of a maximum of 15% but the terms of the discounts must be mentioned clearly on their website and uniformly implemented for all cable TV networks in the country. This will ensure that you in the Andaman & Nicobar islands receive the same Pay channel rates and discounts as any other cable TV network in India.

There is no ceiling on pay channel prices but any channel priced above Rs. 19 must be offered as stand-alone channels only. Cable TV networks also receive handsome payments from both broadcasters and consumers, according to the new tariff order.

The TRAI regulations permit cable networks to charge a carriage fee of a maximum of 20 paise per subscriber per month. The broadcasters will of course pay the carriage fee if they want viewership in your area. That in turn will depend on whether the BARC samples viewership in the Andaman Islands, for TRP ratings. If they do not include Andaman viewers in their TRPs, pay channels will not pay you carriage fees for inclusion on your network since this will not reflect in any benefit to them in terms of viewership rating and therefore ad revenues.

The tariff order has been held up because STAR TV and Vijay TV have challenged it in the Madras High Court. The Court has assured that a final judgement will be declared by 3rd April, 2017. The new tariff order is available on the TRAI website and it is completely different from the earlier tariff orders. The new Tariff orders (if accepted by the court) come into effect after 150 days.

Please wait till early April before taking a major decision. -Ed.