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Dish TV shoots off letter to IBF; alleges discrimination by b’casters, OTT platforms

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NEW DELHI: In a move that’s certain to set the cat amongst the pigeons, Dish TV, one of India’s biggest satellite platform in terms of subscribers, has not only accused broadcasters of  “discrimination” relating to making available content to various pay distribution platforms vis-à-vis likes of OTT, but also “creating huge disparity” in the market.

“Broadcasters, on one hand, keep on charging huge subscription fee from us and, on the other hand, provide the same content/channel to the OTT platforms at highly subsidized rates, thereby not only creating a non-level field, but also causing huge detriment to the subscribers of Dish TV. Availability of same content/channel on alternate distribution platform on much cheaper rate vis-a-vis DTH has started resulting into migration to the alternate distribution platforms,” Dish TV has said in a letter to the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, an apex body of TV channels or broadcasting companies operating in India.

The Dish TV letter dated 11 August 2017, reviewed by Indiantelevision.com, goes on to highlight why the move of TV channels to turn FTA, join Doordarshan’s free-to-air DTH platform DD FreeDish after paying a carriage fee, and making available content at highly subsided rates to OTT platforms like YouTube and that being proposed by Reliance Jio slides the Indian television market’s business model to be largely advertising driven.

“It is a common industry knowledge that the broadcasters have provided their channels to the OTT platforms at a highly discounted rates, which is totally prejudicial and discriminatory to the DTH platforms,” the Dish TV letter stated, which has also been sent to the DTH Association of India and the All India Digital Cable Federation, a body of digitally-able MSOs.

The letter from Dish TV, written by the satellite platform’s managing director Jawahar Goel, is addressed to IBF president Punit Goenka, who also is Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited MD and CEO, and a nephew of Goel. Goenka’s father and media baron Subhash Chandra is a member of India’s Upper House or Rajya Sabha.

 According to people familiar with the development, IBF’s member-companies have been asked to give their feedback on the content of the letter, which could be put to vote some time mid-September.

“The IBF constitutes of seven major members, viz. Star, Zee, Sony, IndiaCast, Sun (TV group), Discovery and Times, which not only control the IBF but also are the major players collecting the subscription and advertisement revenue--- collecting more than 99 per cent of the subscription and advertisement revenue of the Indian broadcasting industry,” the letter stated, adding that actions of the broadcasters “clearly indicate” the focus was shifting towards increasing the advertising revenue against subscription revenue.

Raising the issue of sector regulator TRAI and disputes tribunal TDSAT’s emphasis on "fairness, reasonability and non-discrimination” as far as making available content to distribution platforms,  Dish TV pointed out that strategies employed by broadcasters were “deterrent to the pay TV market.”

Pointing out that certain actions of the broadcasters could amount to breach of cross-media restrictions too, the letter exhorted the IBF members to discuss “whether the emphasis has to be on pay model (where the broadcasters can collect subscription) or an FTA model (where the broadcasters can get the advertisement revenue)”.

Till the time of writing this report, Indiantelevision.com could not get across to IBF for a reaction.

“Availability of same content/channel on alternate distribution platform on much cheaper rate vis-a-vis DTH rate has started resulting in(to) migration to the alternate distribution platforms,” the letter highlighted, adding that big broadcasters’ own OTT platforms (like Star’s Hotstar, Viacom18’s Voot, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s SonyLIV and Zee’s dittoTV, for example) also contributed to compounding the problem.

The letter added: “It will be critical for your (IBF) members to spell out the strategy to hold/grow the pay TV market, which has been contributing to around 35-40 per cent of the total revenue of the pay broadcasters.”

However, it seems that the present slew of letters from Dish TV and accusations will again rock the approximately Rs 558  billion Indian media and entertainment industry, which had thought corporate skirmishes of mid 1990s to mid 2000s had been buried in favour of overall growth of the broadcast and cable sectors and the media and entertainment industry, in general.

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