Star, Airtel Digital TV renew content deal

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MUMBAI: After weeks of bitter public spat, broadcaster Star India and direct to home (DTH) operator Bharti Telemedia (Airtel Digital TV) have reached an agreement.

The move will ensure that the Airtel Digital TV consumers will get access to Star India channels which includes the Indian Premier League (IPL) telecast on Star Sports network.

Earlier, both parties had decided to opt for reference interconnect offer (RIO) or a la carte deal as the negotiations on renewal was not moving forward. Had the agreement not been reached, Star channels would have been removed from Airtel Digital TV’s packages.

“Airtel Digital subscribers will continue to get uninterrupted access to all of Star’s programmes including Vivo IPL, following an agreement reached between Star

and Airtel. Both parties would like to assure their subscribers that the two companies are committed to bringing more and more high-quality content and

experience to their consumers,” the two parties said in a joint statement.

Incidentally, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had directed Star and Airtel to either enter into a negotiated agreement before 31 March or else go the RIO deal will come into effect from 1 April.

The agreement between Star and Airtel had expired on 31 October. The previous agreement was extended by Star during the period of negotiation. With negotiations not bearing any results, the broadcaster had issued a disconnection notice to the DTH operator on 15 February due to non-signing of the subscription agreement, non-payment of dues and non-submission of subscriber reports.

Airtel retaliated to Star’s notice by informing its subscribers that Star channels will be removed from packages from 8 March and suitable replacement channels will be offered.

On 3 March, Airtel requested Star to allow it to avail channels on RIO basis. The broadcaster responded by saying that the DTH operator needs to clear arrears, submit subscriber reports, and sign the agreement.

The DTH operator raised the dispute about the pending dues and stated that it was entitled to an RIO deal to protect the interests of the subscribers from 9 March.

Following this, the DTH operator filed the petition in TDSAT challenging Star’s disconnection notice. The tribunal asked the DTH operator to clear dues except for the disputed amount of Rs 9.8 crore.

Subsequently, Star filed an application before the TDSAT to direct the DTH operator to ink RIO-based deal effective 9 March and clear dues worth Rs 17.8 crore.

After the TDSAT order, the two parties indulged in a virtual slugfest running ads and scrolls accusing each other of being unreasonable. While Airtel accused of increasing prices of its channels Star retorted back by asking Airtel Digital TV subscribers to switch to other platforms to get Star channels without any additional cost.

In order to ensure that its subscribers don’t miss out on the IPL action, it had assured its customers by stating that they will get Star Sports 1/Star Sports 1 Hindi channels as part of base pack till 30 May.

It is pertinent to note that Star has also issued disconnection notices to DTH operators Dish TV and Videocon d2h, who have since merged to become a single entity.

With Indian Premier League (IPL) round the corner, Star is using the popularity of the league to get sweeter deals from distribution platforms. The broadcaster has paid a whopping Rs 16,347.5 crore to secure the IPL media rights till 2022.


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