Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) has published its updated Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) in compliance with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) New Tariff Order (NTO) 2.0. The new RIO will be effective from 1st December 2021 and is subject to the outcome of the NTO 2.0 case in the Supreme Court. Interestingly, the SC has posted the NTO 2.0 matter for final hearing on 30th November. Other broadcasters are expected to file their RIOs on Friday.
The RIO has been filed since the TRAI had issued letters to the broadcasters seeking compliance report from them in the wake of the SC categorically denying interim relief to the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) and its members. The IBDF and other broadcasters have challenged the Bombay High Court judgement, which upheld NTO 2.0 barring the second twin condition, before the SC.The broadcaster has kept the MRP of its GEC and sports channels above the TRAI mandated cap of Rs 12 It has priced its flagship Hindi GECs Sony Entertainment Television (SET) and Sony Sab at Rs 24 and Rs 23 respectively. English sports channels Sony Ten 1 and Sony Ten 2 have been priced at Rs 20 while Sony Six has an MRP of Rs 15. Five of its 16 Standard Definition (SD) channels cannot be a part of the bouquet as they are priced above the MRP cap of Rs 12. Experts believe that viewers will be forced to fork out more since these popular channels are available only on an à la carte basis. This also has major ramifications for the broadcaster, as its bouquet will look less enticing in the absence of popular channels. The reach of popular channels might also take a hit as the industry and consumers will take time to get used to the new pricing mechanism.
General entertainment channels have the highest share of viewership compared to all other genres. Likewise, sports channels enjoy massive uptake during the duration when they air a live cricket match. The availability of these channels at high à la carte rates will pinch the consumers hard, the experts say.
Majority of Indian TV consumers are used to getting a bouquet of 300-400 channels across genres and languages at a reasonable price. Linear television prices in India are among the lowest in the world. If other broadcasters follow suit, the consumers will end up paying more for fewer channels.
However, SPNI has kept the price of two of its sports channels — Sony Ten 3 (Hindi) and Sony Ten 4 (Tamil, Telugu) — at Rs 12 each. Apart from the two sports channels, the broadcaster has priced its popular Hindi movie channel Sony Max at Rs 12. English GEC Sony Pix has an MRP of Rs 10The MRP of the other eight channels are in low single digits. These include Marathi GEC Sony Marathi (Rs 4), Bengali GEC Sony Aath (Rs 4), Infotainment Sony BBC Earth (Rs 3), Kids channel Sony Yay! (Rs 2), Hindi movie channel MAX 2 (Rs 2), Hindi GEC Sony Pal (Rs 0.5), and Hindi movie channel Sony Wah (Rs 0.4).
The broadcaster has priced the majority of its HD channels upwards of Rs 20. The broadcaster has cut down the number of bouquets to 12. Happy India Marathi Blockbuster, Happy India Marathi Blockbuster, Happy India Hindi Blockbuster SD and HD bouquets have been priced at Rs 24 and Rs 37 respectively.