On June 16th through a public notice published in the leading newspapers, Times Television Network had informed the stakeholders that from April 1, the network will no longer be distributed by the content aggregator TheOneAlliance. After a couple of days IndiaCast UTV, a joint venture between IndiaCast Media Distribution and Disney UTV had announced to end their joint venture. Why all these breakups? Its all to do with the TRAI regulations to level up the industry for the smooth implementation of Digitisation.
In the month of February 2014 Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had issued a regulation called Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Service (Fourth) (Addressable System) Tariff (Third Amendment) Order 2014. With this regulation TRAI had banned content aggregators from forming bouquets which have channels from more than one broadcaster. Formation of revised bouquets was to be completed within six months of issue of the Tariff Order. When the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) came out with its regulation on the fate of the content aggregators, the industry did predict that many networks would now move out of the current distribution ventures. And clearly they weren’t wrong.
The first to move out of the joint venture was Star India and Zee TV as they announced the disbanding of India’s largest and most controversial content aggregator MediaPro and setting up of their independent cable TV affiliate distribution teams. This was only the beginning. The first and the biggest impact of this regulation were seen within two months of the notification.
News of the split between Star Den and Zee Turner on 11th April came as a shock to many as the three years old distribution joint venture was created just before Digitalisation came into force to create a bigger competition for their rivals and also to create a large bargaining power to dominate the digital cable market.
However, two months after the distribution joint venture (JV) MediaPro dissolved; Zee has decided to hand over its distribution to Taj Television India, a wholly owned subsidiary of Zee Entertainment. While initially Taj Television was the sole distributor of Ten Sports channels, it will now act as agent for Zee Entertainment, Zee Media and Turner along with Ten Sports. Taj Television has a suite of 47 television channels. This includes: Zee TV, Zee Cinema, &pictures, Ten Sports, Zee Cafe, Zee Studio, Zing, Zee Marathi, Zee Bangla, Zee Telugu, Zee Kannada, Zee Tamizh, Zee TV HD, Zee Cinema HD, Zee Studio HD, Ten HD, Zee News, Zee Business, HBO, Cartoon Network, Pogo, CNN, Warner Brothers and Zeel’s new channel Zindagi.
The second impact was seen after four month of the notification, MSM Discovery, the joint venture distribution bouquet that operates under the brand name of TheOneAlliance, and Times Television Network had terminated their distribution alliance.
The news was announced by the TTN and MSM Discovery with public notices published in the leading newspapers. The notice reads, “This is to inform all concerned that with effect from 1 April 2014, Times Global Broadcasting Company Ltd (TGBCL) is the sole and exclusive distributor for the television channels, namely Romedy Now, Romedy Now+, Zoom, ET Now, Movies Now and Times Now, all forming part of the Times Television Network.”
MSM Discovery president Rajesh Kaul said that the company will continue to be the authorised sole and exclusive distribution agent for MSM, Discovery Communications India and TV Today Network to various distribution platforms cable (both analogue and digital), direct-to-home (DTH), HITS, IPTV, and hotels and commercial establishments. The channels under TheOneAlliance will include SET, Max, Max 2, SAB, Mix, Pix, Six, AXN, Animax, Aath, Discovery Channel, Discovery Channel Tamil, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo, Discovery Kids, Discovery HD World, Sony HD, Six HD, Pix HD, Headlines Today, Aaj Tak and Tez.
MSM CEO NP Singh said, “We are very confident that TheOneAlliance is perfectly enabled to monetise the valuable and exclusive premium content that we produce and acquire.” Added Rahul Johri, EVP and GM – South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific and Head of Revenue, Pan-Regional Ad Sales and Southeast Asia: “Discovery has a very strong partnership with Sony and we are fully committed to TheOneAlliance. It is Discovery’s endeavor to provide the Indian viewers with the finest entertainment and TheOneAlliance will continue to distribute our eight current channels and our new launches across India.” Kaul is upbeat about the future of TheOneAlliance and is looking forward to a strong double-digit growth.“Given the current strength and the aggressive future investment plans of our partners, TheOneAlliance will continue to excel as a powerful leader in the industry. We will have a very strong bouquet of over 30 channels. We are going to invest in channels like Max 2 (a contemporary Hindi movie channel), Pix HD, AXN HD, and upcoming entertainment channels from the MSM stable. There will also be new channels from Discovery – Investigation Discovery (ID), TLC HD and Animal Planet HD,” Kaul said. The third impact of this regulation has been seen in the split of IndiaCast UTV; however the company has not yet announced the split officially. IndiaCast UTV was a 74:26 JV with IndiaCast as the majority partner.
The structure of Indiacast Media, a joint venture (JV) between TV18 and Viacom18, will stand. TV18 Broadcast holds 50 per cent stake in Viacom18, the company which operates channels such as Colors, MTV, Nick and Vh1. IndiaCast will, however, continue to distribute Disney UTV channels as an agent. Disney UTV has a bouquet of nine channels – UTV Movies, UTV Stars, UTV World Movies, Disney Junior, UTV Action, Bindass, Hungama TV, Disney Channel and Disney XD. For IndiaCast, thus, the number of channels it will handle will remain the same.
The JV was distributing 46 channels from the TV18, Viacom18, Disney UTV, Eenadu Group and A+E Networks|TV18 to cable, direct to-home (DTH) and Headend-in-the-sky (HITS) platforms in India. TV18 network comprises 20 channels that include CNBC-TV18, CNBC-Awaaz, CNN-IBN, IBN7, CNBC-TV18 Prime HD, IBN Lokmat, ETV Gujarati, ETV Marathi, ETV Bangla, ETV Kannada, ETV Oriya, ETV UP, ETV MP, ETV Rajasthan, ETV Urdu, ETV Bihar, ETV News Kannada, ETV News Bangla, ETV Haryana/Himachal Pradesh and ETV News Gujarati. Viacom18 network has 11 channels in the bouquet that include Colors, MTV, MTV Indies, Rishtey, Nick, Vh1, Sonic, Comedy Central, Nick Jr/Teen Nick, Colors HD and MTV Indies HD. A+E Networks|TV18 network comprises two channels – History TV18 and History TV18 HD. Eenadu Group channels include ETV, ETV Andhra Pradesh and ETV Telangana.
Meanwhile TV Today Network also went to Delhi Court against TRAI’s content aggregator regulation stating that this was an infringement of their Fundamental Right to business in their own way and TRAI was not empowered to do that. However, Delhi High Court without issuing any order has posted the matter for hearing on 7th July.
In the petition TV today said that the definition of a broadcaster in the amended tariff order is not consistent with the one in the Cable Television Networks Act 1995. Changing the definition of a broadcaster is beyond the purview of TRAI as making amendments to the CTN Act will require parliamentary approval, the news broadcaster has said in its petition. It has also contended that competition-related issues are the sole domain of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and TRAI has no authority over this. If at all the regulator felt that content aggregators were misusing their dominant position, it should have simply referred the matter to the CCI.