High channel pricing may play spoilsport: IPTV

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High channel pricing may play spoilsport: IPTV
25 Aug, 2008

NEW DELHI: Despite the Cabinet’s nod for Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) services in the country, the technology faces the hurdle of higher channel pricing by broadcasters. IPTV players say rollout could be impacted due to inability to get content at competitive prices. Earlier this week, the Union Cabinet cleared the policy framework for IPTV and made changes to the downlinking guidelines for TV channels to allow commercial rollout of these services.

IPTV players like Time Broadband and Aksh Optifibre have seen broadcasters demand a premium for providing content. “The consumer should be able to use any service—DTH, CAS or IPTV—at the same price. However, for broadcasters, IPTV players are small operators and their intent to support rollout of these services is low,” said Time Broadband director (operations) Amit kumar Dev.

Telcos such as BSNL and MTNL had earlier asked telecom regulator TRAI to fix prices for IPTV services, similar to what the regulator had earlier done for direct-to-home (DTH) services. Following discussions with broadcasters, Trai had said that IPTV players would get content at rates similar to DTH, which means that broadcasters can charge IPTV players up to 50% more than what they charge in non-CAS areas. Industry sources say that even in case of DTH, TRAI’S directives are not being strictly followed and hence, a nascent segment like IPTV has a bigger challenge ahead.

“IPTV players still don’t have the ability to negotiate with broadcasters over pricing,” said Aksh Optifibre MD KS Choudhari. IPTV players also believe that the game would change in their favour with the entry of bigger players such as Bharti and Reliance and make content providers take greater note of them. However, content providers say they have no disagreements over pricing with IPTV players. Starden CEO Gurjeev Singh Kapoor said, “We are following TRAI’S directive on pricing and have signed agreements with telcos. There is no problem.” Starden is the distribution firm for Network18 and Star Group’s channels.

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