Days after major television broadcasters, including Disney Star, Zee Entertainment Enterprises and Sony Pictures Networks India, switched off signals to cable operators, as the latter refused to roll out channel price hikes, the cable operators across the country said that price increase will lead to more subscribers leaving their services and opting for DTH and OTT platforms.
This comes after the broadcasters had issued notices to cable operators to sign the Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) for New Tariff Order (NTO) 3.0 issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). With this order, the television channel prices in the bouquet rose by about 10-15 per cent and came into effect from February 1.
This has led to disputes between media companies and local cable operators, resulting in many channels being taken off air due to pricing disagreements.
A Punjab-based cable operator said that the basic package of channels that currently costs Rs 400 will go up to Rs 600 or more.
"The hike will lead to more subscribers leaving our platform," he said.
"The increase in prices of channels shown by cable TV platforms will further bring our business down as our subscribers will migrate to DTH and OTT platforms and this will in an indirect way eliminate cable operators from the business," he claimed.
On Monday, the Cable Operator Association of Gujarat filed a special civil application in the Gujarat High Court after broadcasters increased prices of paid channels by 60-70 per cent.
"The new move by broadcasters has disrupted the Indian media landscape and is expected to affect nearly 45 million consumers of cable TV operators. This is nothing but high-handedness. They are trying to force us to accept the fresh agreements with increased prices," said the cable operators.
"The issue is solely about paid channels and not about 200-odd channels which are currently free to air," the cable operators added.
Meanwhile, the Indian Broadcasting & Digital Foundation, a body of television broadcasters, on Monday issued a statement saying the cable operators are trying to merely "invoke public sympathy" and that 90 per cent of the Distribution Platform Operators have signed the new agreement.
The All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) had said on Saturday that its members are not signing the new agreements as a mark of protest against unreasonable pricing by the broadcasters.
The IBDF also said that some cable operators did not sign fresh agreements, forcing them to disconnect their services after serving due notice.
The IBDF said that 90 per cent of the operators, including DTH (direct-to-home) and MSOs (multiple system operators), have signed up for NTO 3.0 but the remaining operators are holding back.
"The broadcasters have, therefore, been left with little choice but to turn off the supply of content to these distributors. We remain hopeful of their cooperation and look forward to a scenario where content is seamlessly available to all television viewers across the country," Siddharth Jain, Secretary General, IBDF, said in a statement.