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Neo Sports decides to break away from The One Alliance

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MUMBAI: Three weeks after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued its television content aggregation regulation, Neo Sports Broadcast has decided to break away from its distributor The One Alliance.

A statement from the company states that the broadcaster has decided not to renew its agreement with The One Alliance that expires on 31 March. From 1 April, the sportscaster will be distributing its channels Neo Sports and Neo Prime through an in-house distribution team.

When contacted by Indiantelevision.com, The One Alliance president Rajesh Kaul says, “The contract was coming to an end on 31 March and we were contemplating of not renewing the contract because they have lost all the sporting properties from the network. With MSM investing heavily on Sony Six and with IPL and FIFA, it is a formidable sports channel and so we did not want anything else in the bouquet.”

Apart from Neo Sports, The One Alliance currently distributes television channels of Multi Screen Media, Discovery, Times Television Network and TV Today.

Neo Sports believes that it can on its own strength build a robust relationship with cable operators, DTH operators and HITS companies. Even when its channels were being distributed by the aggregator to cable platforms, it was handling distribution through DTH on its own.

According to Neo Sports, standalone channels with good content mix at affordable prices can be good and effective business cases in a digital environment.

Says Neo Sports Broadcast EVP distribution platforms, Dilip Sharan, “The suggestive regulatory approach combined with digitisation clearly points that future distribution deals will be dictated by the relevant content that is made available to various audiences and the ability to work with the platforms keeping in mind the business issues and not entirely on the strength of the channels size in the bouquet, a prevalent practice in the analogue era.  Our cable distribution deal with MSMD made better commercial sense in the analogue environment.”

TRAI’s regulation has barred aggregation of television channels from different broadcaster groups and allowed the aggregators six months of transition period.

Neo Sports believes that there is a lot more scope to monetise from digitisation. The analogue era didn’t allow many channels due to bandwidth limitation. “The new regulation is indicative of how things are likely to pan out in the future. We were waiting for TRAI’s view on it to take this step at the opportune time,” adds Sharan.

One of the major concerns of various broadcasters is that an aggregator might be bias against the smaller networks. Although Sharan doesn’t agree, he does feel it is very natural for an aggregator to give preferential treatment to its own channels.

Most aggregators are aligned with several broadcasters.

Will some other broadcasters also follow suit? “I won’t be surprised if others also do the same,” says Sharan.

Neo Prime and Neo Sports channels are currently available on DTH platforms such as Dish TV, Videocon D2H, Airtel Digital TV, Reliance DTH and Sun Direct. The Neo channels are available on cable channels across all the leading networks.

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