The new tariff structure for India's digital cable TV services was announced by the broadcasting regulator TRAI on Monday (30 April), ahead of analogue switch off in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata on 1 July.
A viewer will be able to opt for a maximum of 100 free to air channels for a minimum INR 100 subscription, under the new rules. These will include five channels of each genre, including news, sports, infotainment, music, lifestyle, films and general entertainment.
Each cable operator must also include 18 channels from the public broadcaster Doordarshan on their digital TV service.
To ensure viewer choice, all channels must be offered individually or an a la carte basis.
The monthly tariff structure for pay channels should not exceed INR 150 per channel, says TRAI.
The regulator also requires multi system operators (MSOs) to carry at least 200 TV channels, with this minimum to expand to 500 come 2013.
From 1 January 2013, all cable operators must also carry Hindi and English channels, as well as of the regional language spoken in their coverage area.
Broadcast carriage fees must be charged in what TRAI calls a non-discriminatory and transparent fashion. There must be a uniform charge for channels, with the fee amount filed with the regulator. TRAI will intervene if carriage fees are believed to be unreasonable.
Revenue sharing between MSOs and local cable operators will be based on mutual negotiation, says the regulator. While fees charged by the broadcaster of an MSO remains set at a maximum of 42% of the rate they charge in non-addressable (analogue) systems.
India's cable homes numbered 94 million in 2011, of an estimated total 147 million TV homes. There are more than 800 registered channels, with 160 being subscription-based.
There are between 10-12 million TV homes in the four metros, which comprise the first phase of the country's mandatory digitization plan. With two months before analogue switch off in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, a reported 25% of these cable homes are now ready to receive digital TV.
Full digitization of India's vast cable network is scheduled for 31 December 2014.