Independent TV secures content deals with broadcasters

MUMBAI: In a major relief for direct to home (DTH) operator Independent TV (formerly Reliance Big TV), the company has started executing content deals with leading pay-TV broadcasters.

The cash-strapped DTH operator has started clearing outstanding dues of broadcasters who have in turn reciprocated by switching on the signals of their channels to the DTH firm.

As on date, Independent TV has arrived at an agreement with ZEEL, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), Sun TV Network, IndiaCast Media Distribution, Discovery Communications India, and ABP News Network. It is also negotiating with other broadcasters like Odisha Television, and Times Network.

ZEEL submitted before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that it has arrived at a settlement with Independent TV. The tribunal accordingly disposed of the petitions by treating the main issue to be infructuous.

“It is not disputed on behalf of the petitioners that parties have managed to arrive a settlement and also executed an agreement leading to supply of signals,” TDSAT said in its interim order.

However, it added that ZEEL will be open to act in accordance with law and the subsequent agreements in respect of any issue which may arise between the parties in these two petitions.

In July, Independent TV had claimed before the tribunal that signals have been activated by IndiaCast Media Distribution, Discovery Communications India, ABP News Network, Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India and ZEEL. It had also claimed that the new agreements are likely to be executed with Sony Pictures and ZEEL by 20 July.

The tribunal had disposed of the petition filed by IndiaCast after the two arrived at a settlement.

In the previous hearing on 29 August, Discovery Communications India and ABP News Network had withdrawn petitions after arriving at a settlement leading to an agreement. The two petitions were accordingly disposed of.

ZEEL and SPNI had also submitted that they have managed to arrive at a settlement with the DTH operator and also executed an agreement leading to supply of signals.

However, the TDSAT did not dispose of the petition following a persistent request by learned counsel for ZEEL to seek instructions.

Earlier, the TDSAT had directed broadcaster Star India and Independent TV to enter into a fresh agreement within four weeks’ time.

The DTH operator had moved TDSAT seeking an interim direction to Star India to restore the supply of signals and to enter into a fresh agreement because the earlier agreement has expired by efflux of time by 31 August 2017.

As reported earlier, Independent TV has seen its net loss swell more than nine times to Rs 119.3 crore in the fiscal ended 31 March 2018 compared to a net loss of Rs 12.78 crore in the previous fiscal. The company’s turnover has plummeted 45.4% to Rs 210 crore compared to Rs 385.1 crore in the previous fiscal.

The DTH company has been acquired by Pantel Technologies and Veecon Media and Television from debt-laden Reliance Communications (RCom).

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