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Tata Sky blinks, agrees to restore ESPN channels in its bouquet after Delhi HC order

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Tata Sky blinks, agrees to restore ESPN channels in its bouquet after Delhi HC order

Sports lovers would get to watch the ESPN channels on Tata Sky after the DTH service provider told the Delhi High Court on June 6 that it would restore all channels of ESPN on its basic offering within 12 days. The Court passed its order on a petition filed by ESPN, challenging Tata Sky’s decision to take off these channels from its base pack.

A Bench of Justice Manmohan recorded the statement of Tata Sky’s counsel, Ramji Srinivasan, that the pack which was prevalent on May 20 would be restored to all Tata Sky subscribers.

Reacting to the development, RC Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India, said, “We are extremely delighted at this latest development. This will ensure that millions of sports fans will be able to enjoy quality sporting action, including UEFA Euro 2008 and the oncoming Asia Cup 2008. We hope that the signals now get restored as soon as possible.”

The Background

ESPN had a contract with Tata Sky Ltd from July 2006 to March 15, 2008. After the expiry of the contract, the parties negotiated but failed to reach any understanding as to renewal of the contract between them. Tata Sky on May 19, 2008 approached TDSAT by filing a petition against ESPN and sought inter alia an interim order of injunction restraining ESPN from disconnecting their channels to Tata Sky. The case was listed for hearing before the TDSAT on May 21, 2008.

The Counsel appearing for ESPN before the TDSAT made a statement that ESPN would not disconnect its services to Taka Sky provided the latter agreed to take the services of ESPN on the terms and conditions that existed between the parties, pending the final hearing by the TDSAT. However, Tata Sky did not agree to this proposal and their lawyer insisted on arguing the matter. Whereupon, the counsel for ESPN requested the TDSAT for time to file a short reply and also informed the TDSAT that the hearing of the matter could be taken up on or before May 30, 2008.

The TDSAT on May 21, 2008 itself had passed an order restraining ESPN from disconnecting it services to Tata Sky and further directed ESPN not to give effect to paragraph C1 of its Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO).

ESPN, aggrieved by the above order of the TDSAT, filed a writ petition on May 26, 2006 before the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court heard the parties and by its order dated May 30, 2008 set aside the order of the TDSAT dated May 21, 2008 and directed that pending the final disposal of the Tata Sky petition by the TDSAT, ESPN “shall not in any manner disconnect or disrupt the single of the three channels, that is, ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket, to Tata Sky as were being provided by it up to May 20, 2008”.

Up to May 20, 2008 the three channels of ESPN were being provided to Tata Sky in its basic package and Tata Sky in turn was transmitting these channels to all their subscribers through a base pack for which they charged Rs 300 per month.

However, on June 1, 2008, Tata Sky removed the three channels of ESPN from its platform and informed their subscribers that they were free to opt for the three channels of ESPN. The sports broadcaster then filed a contempt petition before the Delhi High Court on June 3, 2008 against Tata Sky and Vikram Kaushik, Managing Director, Tata Sky Ltd, for having violated the order of the Delhi High Court dated May 30, 2008 passed in the writ petition filed by ESPN.

Tata Sky officials couldn’t be contacted for comments despite several attempts.

Also read:

ESPN-Star Sports to move HC against Tata Sky over exclusion from basic package


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