DTH operators to be restricted from offering retro-serials, catch-up channels

Some of Tata Sky’s services

DTH operators, who offer various programs and services on their in-house channels, may soon be prevented from carrying popular serials, films and other licensed content, going by TRAI’s latest recommendations.

TRAI also recommended that the ministry of information and broadcasting should 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.

The move is set to majorly disrupt the existing programming on in-house channels, technically called platform services.

At present, nearly all DTH platforms run dozens of such channels that are exclusive to their subscribers, comprising a variety of third-party sourced programs.

Tata Sky, for example, has a service known 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 content 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,” it said in its recommendations today.

A decision by major DTH providers to broadcast ‘Namo TV’ ahead of the general elections earlier this year had led to an uproar, with opposition crying foul and claiming that the channel was not licensed under the regular procedure.

This was followed by a clarification by the DTH operators that Namo TV was not a TV channel, but a platform service.

Broadcasters have also 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.

TRAI also imposed a cap of 15 services per DTH service.

At present, Tata Sky runs 43 such in-house channels, followed by Airtel Digital with 25 and Dish and D2h with 20 each.

The move to restrict such services, which cost 3-10 times as much as regular channels, is likely to come as a blow to the finances of DTH services.