TRAI Tariff Order: Discovery cuts channel prices by up to 90%

Discovery’s new HD pack

Consumers can expect to see a sharp fall in channel prices in days ahead, going by the trend revealed by Discovery Communications, one of the first broadcasters to publish channel prices under TRAI’s new tariff order.

TRAI has mandated a new tariff structure for cable and DTH sectors in India under which they have to give a break up of content charges and capacity charges from the end of this month.

At present, cable and DTH providers specify a single charge that includes both connectivity as well as content costs.

Under the new rules, broadcasters like Discovery and Zee have to declare their new channel prices first. Following this, cable and DTH operators have to file their channel and pack prices before Dec 29.

Under the rules, cable and DTH operators can specify prices that are lower than what the channel owners specify, but cannot charge more.

Discovery Communications operates 13 channels in India, including 9 in standard definition and 4 in high definition.

At present, these channels are currently sold by cable and DTH companies at rates ranging from Rs 10 per month to Rs 75 per month, depending on the operator.

However, from Dec 29, they will not be able to charge so much as Discovery Communications has specified new, reduced MRPs (maximum retail prices).

DSport, for example, is currently sold by Tata Sky at a price of Rs 75 per month. However, the new MRP of the channel, as given in the new tariff card by Discovery, is Rs 4 per month.

However, it should be noted that cable and DTH companies can also charge ‘network charges’ of up to Rs 1.30 per standard definition channel, (Rs 130 for 100 channels). For calculating capacity charges, an HD channel will be considered equal to 2 standard channels. 

In other words, the total price of DSport can be as high as Rs 5.30 per month — or Rs 6.60 per month in HD. Still, this is a drop of more than 90% compared to the current price of Rs 75 per month.

Besides individual channels, broadcasters will also be offering packs. Discovery, for example, is offering a pack of five HD channels, including DSport, TLC HD World, Animal Planet HD and Discovery HD, at just Rs 8.50 per month. Discovery is also offering a pack of eight channels, including five HD channels, for Rs 9 per month.

At present, most HD packs containing these channels cost at least Rs 50 per month, and often more than Rs 100 per month.

It should be noted that these prices do not include capacity charges. DTH and cable companies can charge up to Rs 13 per month for a pack of 5 HD channels in the form of capacity charges, taking the total price of the pack to a maximum of Rs 21.50.

However, most of the cable and DTH providers are expected to charge far lower capacity charges. The cap of Rs 130 for 100 channels is designed as an upper limit for what they can charge.

Star India too has announced new prices. However, with around 50 channels in its pack, its bouquet is priced at Rs 110/120 per month, excluding taxes and capacity charges. Together with taxes and capacity charges, Star India’s bouquet will cost about Rs 200 per month.

Zee Entertainment has also announced new MRPs. The broadcaster offers a Zee Family Pack Hindi, comprising all its Hindi channels, for Rs 45 per month. The HD version of the pack is priced at Rs 60.

It also has an All-In-1 Hindi HD pack priced at Rs 85, which includes English language channels such as &Prive HD and &Flix HD in addition to the Hindi channels.

By Dec 29, all cable and DTH operators have to give their channel prices, pack prices as well as capacity charges, following which, consumers will be able to subscribe to these new packs.