The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TDSAT) has passed an interim order directing the distributors Star Den to provide their television channel feed to the Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) service platform of DishTV. This interim measure was in response to a petition filed by DishTV India Ltd, an Essel Group company, against Star Den Media Services Pvt Ltd, who were denying their feed to the HITS service. Star Den distributes the Star group of channels.
The interim order further directs Star Den to supply activated decoders of all their channels on or before October 23, 2008. In DishTV’s petition before TDSAT, there is also the application of CAS rates for the HITS platform.
HITS is a satellite-based multiplex service that provides television channels to cable TV operators. For consumers, its introduction will provide access to digital quality television via a set-top box and better choice of channels, while for the cable industry, it will mean faster and cost-effective digitalisation. TDSAT’s interim order paves the way to accelerate the introduction of this new consumer-friendly service.
Wire & Wireless India Ltd (WWIL), one of the largest cable companies in the country, has about 70 lakh analog cable subscribers and about 2.5 lakh digital cable subscribers at the moment. WWIL is planning to launch its HITS service soon now that TDSAT has directed Star Den to supply its group of channels to the multi-system operator (MSO).
WWIL will, however, have to take the channels at the reference interconnect offer (RIO) rates and terms that Star Den has filed with TDSAT. “We were willing to give WWIL the channels at RIO rates for their HITS platform,” said Star Den CEO Gurjeev Singh Kapoor.
While passing the interim order, the TDSAT bench, headed by Justice Arun Kumar, said, “Star Den will supply signals of its channels to WWIL on both a la carte and bouquet RIO rates. Star Den will also provide activated decoders to the MSO by October 23, 2008.”
The counsel for WWIL (petitioner) argued that the rates for Conditional Access System (CAS) areas should be fixed at Rs 5, while the rates for non-CAS areas should be fixed at the DTH price (according to which prices of channels have been fixed at 50 per cent of analog cable rates). Star Den counsel said that it was ready to give the supply of its signals to WWIL at the DTH RIO rates. The case has been listed for hearing on November 28.
Meanwhile, in a separate order, TDSAT has directed Tata Sky to make payment to sports broadcaster Neo Sports on the RIO basis for each month starting September, as per which the rate of Neo Sports is Rs 19.35.
The Tata Sky counsel alleged that by paying Rs 20 million, the DTH operator had actually made an excess payment and should not be asked to cough out more.
The Neo Sports counsel argued that since the DTH operator had not signed the RIO, it should pay the subscription charges as per the old agreement signed by both parties.
Initially, Tata Sky and Neo Sports had entered into an agreement for five years as per which, the DTH operator was to pay Rs 937,000 monthly for signals of two channels – Neo Sports and Neo Sports Plus. Later in February 2008, following the directions of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Neo Sports published its RIO, offering channels to DTH operators at Rs 19.35.
On October 1, the Tribunal directed Tata Sky to pay on an ad hoc basis Rs 2 million to the sports broadcaster as the payment for supply of its signals from the April-August 2008 period.
The case has been listed for final hearing on January 7, 2009.