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TDSAT rejects Neo Sports petition seeking interconnect agreement with Tata Sky on its own terms

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New Delhi: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal has dismissed a petition by Neo Sports Broadcast Private Ltd seeking an interconnect agreement on its own reference interconnect offer terms with DTH platform Tata Sky.

Chairman Justice Aftab Alam and members Kuldip Singh and B B Srivastava said the submissions by the broadcaster were ‘quite misconceived’.

Referring to the two provisions relied upon by counsel for the broadcaster, the Tribunal said these were part of the broadcaster's obligations to publish Reference Interconnect Offers for direct-to-home service and the provisions relied upon secure the interests of the direct-to-home distributor rather than the broadcaster.

The Tribunal levied costs of Rs 25,000 which would be deposited with the TDSAT Employees Welfare Society within four weeks.

The Tribunal termed the petition as an “unusual case in that the broadcaster had come to it seeking an interconnect agreement on its own Reference interconnect Offer (RIO) terms.

According to Neo Sports, it had been in inter-connect relationship with Tata Sky and the latter hadbeen carrying on its platform Neo sports' two channels: Neo Sports and Neo Prime (formerly NeoCricket) since 2006-07. The last agreement between the parties was executed on 17 September 20 10 for a period of three years commencing from 1October 20 1 0 and coming to end on 30September 2013.

Under clause V of the agreement Tata Sky was obliged to pay to Neo Sports “the rather steep” subscription fee of Rs 124 crore (R s. 1 09 crore for channels  being distributed in the Standard Definition mode and Rs 15 crore for channels being distributed in the High Definition mode).

It is to be noted that at the time the interconnect agreement was executed Neo Sports  enjoyed exclusive BCCI rights for live broadcast of international cricket matches which gave it the power tocommand very high subscription fees in the Indian broadcasting market.  It lost the right to the cricket broadcasts in December 2011 and “it is a measure of popularity of the game in the country that there after it was unable to hold onto the amount of subscription fees stipulated in the agreement which was still subsisting”. The two sides executed an Addendum on 16 May 2012  to the Distribution Agreement of 17 September  2010 reducing the subscription fee substantially and it was fixed at the rate of Rs one crore per month plus applicable service tax for the period from April 2012 to 30September 2013.

The Tribunal noted that negotiations continued thereafter but Neo Sports did not have the marketing power it had at the time of execution of the earlier agreement and Tata Sky was no longer willing to meet its demands.

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