Neo Sports challenges Trai decision on price cut for its sports channels

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal today asked Trai to explain by 7 February the basis of its decision to slash the bouquet prices of Neo Sports and Neo Sports Plus channels' from Rs 58.50 to Rs 37.25, on which the channels had filed an appeal.

The channels' contentions were on several grounds, especially that "sports" cannot be treated as a "genre" for fixing of price.

The counsel for the channels argued at TDSAT today, that "sports" cannot be treated as a genre as a method of fixing a channel's price because there are sports channels and sports channels.

The channels said that there were huge differentials between the pricing of various sports channels, and that these differentials stem from the rights to cricket properties. Neo Sports channels presented its case saying that it had rights of almost two-third of the assured cricketing properties involving India, till 2010. These properties have a tremendous revenue generating potential and also have to be bought at massive prices, hence the higher prices, the channels argued.

Trai had argued earlier that fixing of prices for channels of the same "genre", which is one of the key factors as per the Trai principal Tariff Order's clause 3, does not allow Neo Sports and Neo Sports Plus to fix their prices higher than those fixed for channels of the same genre of sports, like Star Sports and ESPN.

Based on these arguments Trai last week had ordered a slashing of the prices of the two Nimbus channels to the levels of Star Sports and ESPN, that is, Rs 5 in Cas areas in the three metros, and Rs 37.25 otherwise.

While Nimbus has questioned the authority of Trai to fix the price, it has also pointed out to the tribunal that the price of sports channels range from Rs 10 for Zee Sports, to Rs 42.50 for ESPN, with Ten Sports at Rs 14 falling in between.

This shows a 400 per cent difference in pricing for channels of the same genre: sports, which, Nimbus has contended, goes against Trai's own argument, which is the basis of the decision to slash Nimbus' pricing.

MSOs and cable operators refused comment, since the matter has become sub-judice. Roop Sharma, president of Cable Operators Federation of India, which had in the first instance filed the case against Nimbus originally, said they would respond to the notice when the time comes.

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