Telecom regulator TRAI is hopeful of at least 90 percent TV viewer onboarding before the February 1 deadline for migration to the new tariff regime for broadcasting and cable services, according to Chairman RS Sharma. Up against stringent timelines, and with just days to go before the crucial switch-over, the regulator is also keeping a hawk eye on the progress made by Distribution Platform Owner (DPO) and the broadcasters in recording consumer choices.
In an interview, Sharma told PTI that the trend recorded in the past few days – a sudden surge in recording of customer preferences by service providers – indicated that the desired figure of 100 percent onboarding will be reached “soon”.
“It is true that initially the speed was not good, but now it has picked up in the last few days, and looking at the trend, we feel, we will be able to reach the figure of over 90 percent by January 31…there may be 10 percent cases where people may be travelling or not present at home,” Sharma said.
Earlier, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had stated on January 24 that close to 40 percent of the consumers have already exercised their options. TRAI had unveiled the new tariff order and regulatory regime for the broadcast and cable sector, which would pave the way for consumers to opt for channels they wish to view, and pay only for them. It had said every channel should be offered a la carte, with a transparent display of rates on electronic programme guide. Although TRAI had prescribed a phased roadmap for customer onboarding by players, the pace for the same was sluggish at the beginning.
The regulator has ruled out any extension of upcoming deadline, and Sharma said in some cases the operators themselves – certain association and broadcasters — have made written submission that the timelines should not be altered. To ensure smooth implementation and create customer awareness, TRAI has come out with advertisements, created YouTube clips and is also holding regular meetings with broadcasters, direct to home (DTH) operators and multi system operators (MSO) to review the customer choice collection progress.
“We are reviewing it on a day-to-day basis. We are also looking into apps of various DTH operators to see how customer-friendly they are for recording of viewer choices,” Sharma said. Monthly bills of those customers who select the channels they watch will “certainly go down”, Sharma said adding that viewers should not unnecessarily hoard channels, as they will always have the option of adding it to their cart as and when they wish to watch it.
“Many a times, people buy goods they don’t need today but think they will need tomorrow. Tomorrow, if they want to watch a channel they can buy it… why should they hoard the channel because it is a costly hoarding as they have to pay for it too,” he said. TRAI last week had said in a statement that the work related to seeking consumer’s choice of channels “is in full swing”.
“It has also been brought to the attention of the Authority, that certain rumours and misleading information is still being circulated contending that further extension of the time period for obtaining consumer choices is under consideration. The Authority reiterates that there is no reason to consider any extension in view of the significant momentum in obtaining the choices and the assurances of all the service providers,” TRAI had said.