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TDSAT backs ESPN in add-on channel rates issue
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In a significant ruling, which will have a long term impact on the pricing of channels for the DTH platform, Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has backed sports broadcaster ESPN Software India.

Nanju Ganpathy, counsel, ESPN Software India, said, "TDSAT has accepted ESPN's contention that 50 per cent discount should be given only when the channel is being viewed by all or at least a majority of the DTH operator's subscriber base."

ESPN's main contention that the 50 per cent discount norm for DTH operators laid down by TDSAT was in cases where the channels were placed in basic packages and were going to the majority of the DTH operator's subscriber base.

However, when a DTH operator places channels in add-on packages, channels no longer have the majority viewership exposure as enjoyed by them in cable platforms. Therefore, such broadcasters should not be forced to give discounts as high as 50 per cent to the DTH operators.

"We are also glad that the Tribunal has also directed TRAI not to take any action pursuant to TRAI's direction to the sports broadcaster, requiring it to offer its channels to DTH operators at 50 per cent discounted rate," Ganpathy further said.

The issue arose when Tata Sky offloaded the sports channel from its base pack in May 2008, its argument being not all viewers wanted a sports channel, which cost it more, at about Rs 47 a month, round the year. ESPN went to court and subsequently, TRAI initiated criminal proceedings against ESPN, which was stayed by the Delhi High Court.

Broadcasters are required to offer their channels to DTH operators at half the price at which they offer it to cable operators, under an interim order. Cable rates have been fixed at ceiling price rates for different cities.

TRAI is working on a consultation paper that covers tariff regulation for the DTH sector, the comments for which have been sought by May 18. [Image: espn_logo1.jpg]TDSAT has held that till TRAI makes its recommendations, the question of pricing of add-on channels be left to the broadcaster and DTH operator to negotiate.
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