The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is in the process of evaluating a consultation process to regulate online video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar, as per two people close to the development.
As per the sources, TRAI has received multiple requests from industry stakeholders to develop a pricing and economic framework for the video streaming platforms. It might add a separate section on such platforms in the soon-to-be-released consultation paper for over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber, as per the anonymous sources.
The sources added that the stakeholders have expressed concern that certain broadcasters are airing same content through Internet channels as through direct-to-home (DTH) platforms and cable operators. Thus the primary issue is that these broadcasters are airing content on their video streaming platforms for free, while the same content is chargeable on DTH and cable networks, which in turn poses a threat to the latter.
Anil Malhotra, COO at Zee Group-owned cable company SITI Networks Ltd, told Livemint that industry stakeholders have requested TRAI to introduce a regulatory framework for such platforms. “OTT (video streaming) must be regulated. It is just another form of IPTV. On the basis of just a few differentiations, one cannot say that OTT is outside the purview of regulation and no law of land should apply to it,” he said.
However, at the same time, one faction of broadcast stakeholders (including companies operating OTT platforms) has been opposing regulatory intervention. “The regulation is a threat to the OTT space and internet. Nowhere in the world has such a framework been introduced; a producer has a right to distribute his content whatever way he wants. Introducing regulatory framework in such a situation will adversely impact innovation and availability of such services,” added one of the sources cited earlier.
He added that OTT does not impact distribution platforms like cable and DTH firms because consumers if not paying for content still have to pay for data usage to access that content. Thus at a time of net neutrality, OTT regulation could be a big setback.