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Broadcasters hike prices of channel bouquets on rising content expenses

Broadcasters Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Sony Pictures Networks India, and Viacom18 have raised TV channel bouquet prices to offset rising content expenses that will affect monthly TV bills for consumers.

Network18 and Viacom18’s distribution arm IndiaCast has raised the price of their bouquets by 20-25% after adding big-ticket sports properties to their portfolio.

Zee hiked the price of its bouquets by over 9–10%, while Sony’s bouquet prices have gone up by 10–11%. Disney Star is yet to unveil its new bouquet pricing.

While the broadcasters said the new pricing will come into effect on February 1, regulation states that they can implement the new pricing 30 days after the publication of the reference interconnect offer (RIO).

However, with 2024 being an election year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is carefully monitoring broadcaster rate cards to avert customer outrage.

TRAI sources indicate the regulator will scrutinize broadcaster bouquets to ensure compliance with the new tariff order (NTO) 3.0.

Broadcasters have increased their prices for the second time following the implementation of NTO 3.0 by the TRAI in November 2022. The TV channel prices were frozen for nearly three years before February 2023 due to an impasse over the implementation of NTO 2.0.

The price hike in February 2023 followed a dispute between broadcasters and cable TV companies, resulting in broadcasters switching off TV signals to cable TV operators.

Broadcasters are required to declare both a la carte and bouquet prices for their channels, but most consumers prefer bouquets for cost efficiency.

Industry executives point out that Viacom18’s aggressive price hike stems from its investment of upwards of Rs 34,000 crore in sports rights, which include Indian Premier League (IPL) digital rights, BCCI media rights, Cricket South Africa media rights, and the Olympics 2024.

“Viacom18 is targeting strong double-digit growth in subscription revenue due to the addition of BCCI. Sony and Zee have settled for an inflation-linked hike,” said a top-level executive with a leading broadcasting firm.

According to a source aware of the development, Disney Star is contemplating its pricing strategy after it lost the BCCI media rights and the uncertainty over the fate of the International Cricket Council (ICC) TV rights deal.

Disney Star acquired ICC media rights for $3 billion and sublicensed the TV rights to Zee while retaining the digital rights. Zee is yet to fulfill its part of the commitments to Disney Star, which is holding up the sub-licensing deal.

“Zee’s bouquet pricing doesn’t seem to factor in the ICC TV rights. It will be interesting to see Disney Star’s new pricing since they have lost BCCI rights and ICC TV rights is now their responsibility,” said a veteran TV distribution executive.

Jan 06,2024

Source: Economic Times