As per the new rules from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), users in India will now have to pay only for the channels that they subscribe to, reducing the overall cost of the plan potentially. As of now, Cable TV and Direct-To-Home (DTH) operators offered pre-designed bouquets of channels that allowed users to pick a pool of channels as per their liking and did not allow for choosing the channels individually. The downside to this was that a lot of the times, users ended up paying too much on the packs and often times had to pay for the channels that they did not want to watch. However, that is about to change now. As starting February 1, 2019, with the new rules coming into play, users will now be able to choose their channels individually and will only need to pay for the selected channels.
Amidst all the fuss and confusing stuff about the new TRAI rules for TV channels, here’s our attempt to simplify everything and make it easier for you to understand the rules and create your own plan.
What are the changes in the new TRAI rule?
Starting February 1, with the new rules coming into play, users will get the freedom to select what channels they want to watch and only pay for those channels. These channels can be found in two ways: via an ‘a la carte’ option – that allows users to pick and pay for channels individually; via a ‘bouquet’ option – that allows users to pick channels from a pool of pre-selected channels from the broadcaster.
In spite of the new rules, the old-existing plans from the operators will still be present and users can continue to be on these plans till the pre-committed period. Regardless, the Cable and DTH operators have to abide by the new rules commencing February 1 and need to allow users to choose their channels and create a pack for themselves.
How will the channels be priced?
To start off, users would be provided with a base pack of channels that TRAI calls, Free-To-Air (FTA) channels. Under this, users will get 100 channels for free, which will include the mandatory 26 Doordarshan channels. These 100 channels will cover some of the basic channels, in addition to various regional language channels and cannot be changed or replaced with other channels. The channels provided under FTA policy will be in Standard Definition (SD) and will not include any High Definition (HD) channels. The cost of the base pack called the Network Capacity Fee (NCF) by TRAI, costs Rs 130 per month plus taxes on DTH and Rs 100 per month plus taxes on cable.
Apart from the base pack of 100 channels, users get to pick their channels from either of the two ways mentioned above. For the ‘a-la-carte’ option, any number of channels can be picked up by the customer, the price of which will be added to the base price or NCF of Rs 130.
Here’s how the breakdown of price for adding ‘a la carte’ channel works
If the number of selected channels is between,
- 1-15: the NCF will be charged on per channel basis, at Re 1 per channel per month,
- 16-25: the NCF will be charged in a lump sum amount, at Rs 20 per month.
A thing to note here is that unlike an SD channel, which is counted as one single channel if a user decides to add an HD channel to the pack, it will be counted as the equivalent of two SD channels.
To understand better, consider a scenario where you buy 5 SD channels and 2 HD channels. In this case, the total number of added channels comes to 9 (5 SD + 2 HD (with one HD counted as two)). So, the billing for your plan will be presented to you as – Rs 100 (NCF for 130 channels) + cost of the channels you opted for (both SD and HD) + Rs 9 (NCF for choosing channels between 1-15) + taxes.
How to Select channels as per new TRAI rules?
To customize your pack and add channels of your choice, you need to either visit the website of your operator, wherein you can log in to get all the information and create your own pack, or contact the customer support for your operator. To make it easier for customers to create a plan, TRAI has created a tool that helps in finding the right price for the channels and bouquet packs.
Head over to this website to access the tool. Here, you will be asked to enter a few details, a lot of which are optional and can be skipped using the ‘Skip’ button. To begin with, you would be asked to enter your Name, State, Language, Genres of interest, and Channel type. Once you enter the details, hit ‘Continue’. The tool will process all the provided information and you will be presented with a list of channels, along with the prices for each channel. There are a lot of channels here, so you can use the ‘Sort by’ option to view the channels in a specific order of preference and can also use ‘Filters’ to view the channels according to various categories.
At any point in time, you can select and de-select any channel. Once, you are done with the selection process, you can hit the ‘View Selection’ option to view all the channels you have selected and the overall cost of the pack that you have created. Further, you can use the ‘Optimize’ button, which helps to reduce the cost of the pack wherever possible.
The tool has been designed to give you an idea of the cost of channels and the pack that you create. But, in order to change your current plan, you need to either contact the customer support for your operator or access their website and change the plan from there.
Some tips before we proceed
Before you go ahead and start selecting channels for your new plan as per the new TRAI rules, here are some tips/observations.
- This new rule is mostly anti-consumer. While on paper, it’s good to be able to select only the channels one likes to watch, the overall price will eventually be higher for most people.
- If you have an existing long-term plan (3-months, 6-months, 12-months), consider holding on to that plan. TRAI has mandated DTH operators to honor existing plans, so it might be a better idea to stick on to that “IF” you find the new custom plan to be pricier.
- Wisely choose the channels you want. Needless to say, don’t choose something you hardly watch. Every DTH operator and broadcaster is trying to oversell by grouping channels in a bouquet. Although the bouquets are usually better priced, you might end up paying for channels you never watch.
- HD channels are exorbitantly priced. Be doubly sure you watch that channel when you choose it.
- Every channel will now add 18% GST over its MRP. No wonder we end up paying more than before.
- If you have subscribed to OTT services like Hotstar, Sony LIV, Voot etc., consider not subscribing to respective channels. Personally, I’ll not be subscribing to any movie channels as I now have Netflix/Prime video.
Tata Sky DTH channels selection
Tata Sky has one of the most complex procedures of selecting channels of your new plan. Visit the Tata Sky portal and click on the banner to start the process of channel selection. On the next screen, you will have to enter your mobile number or subscriber ID followed by an OTP for authentication. You can also go to the official Tata Sky app on your Android or iOS smartphone, and tap on the banner that lets you choose your channels.
Once the authentication is done, you will see three options – Recommended for you (based on your existing pack), Tata Sky Packs (a list of all curated and regional packs), and all packs and channels. Our personal recommendation is to go with the third option to save some money. Here again, there are some curated packs which you can go through to see if they suit your needs. Else, scroll down and look for ‘A La Carte’ packs at the end and choose channels individually. Once you have selected all the channels/packs, click on Confirm, and Tata Sky will take a note of it, and starting February 1, you will only pay as per the new tariff. If you have paid for months in advance, it will be adjusted on a pro-rata basis.
Airtel DTH channels selection
Like mentioned above, there are three ways to go about channel selection for your custom plan on Airtel DTH. One, by calling the customer care, two by using the My Airtel app and three, by visiting the Airtel DTH portal.
Login to the Airtel portal with your credentials and head to this link. Here, you will see “Airtel Recommend Packs” which will be similar to the channels you have in the existing pack. More often than not, this option will be super pricey. If you don’t want to go for the recommended ones, there are two other options – Broadcaster Bouquet, and A La Carte.
We recommend you to head to this link and look for specific packs based on language and genre. Else, choose the A la carte option where you can choose individual channels. Check the tips we have mentioned above before proceeding.
Videocon d2h channels selection
If you are a Videocon d2h subscriber, you can visit their portal and log in with your credentials. The tool can be a bit confusing to start with. Look for ‘Select type’ to alternate between SD and HD channels. You can choose between D2h combo, channels and broadcaster bouquets while choosing the channels.
In our experience, we found the broadcaster bouquets to give the best prices, assuming that particular bouquet has all the channels you want. So play around the tool and click on Proceed once you are done to complete the channel selection process.
Dish TV channels selection
Dish TV users can log in with their registered mobile number and OTP sent to it through the website or app. Through the website, one can choose between three broad categories – Dish Combo, Channels, Bouquets.
The tool to choose channels is similar to the Videocon D2H tool we mentioned above. Subscribers can filter their search by selecting language or category such as English, Infotainment, Kids, etc.
Sun Direct A-la-carte channel selection
Sun Direct is oddly not promoting the new a-la-carte plans like others on the homepage. The option is hidden inside the feedback page. In order to find it, head over to this link and start selecting the channels you need. It will keep updating the plan rate (minus the taxes) at the bottom. Once you are done, click on Confirm and then enter your credentials in the following screen.
Today is the last day to get your plan changed. So, if you manage to get it done today, your connection will be easily transitioned to the new plan and you can enjoy your channels starting tomorrow. However, in case you fail to get your plan changed by today, you can contact the customer support and they can help you with the fix.
Raju PP contributed to this post.