Six days after the blackout of Disney Star, Zee and Sony channels from cable networks that chose not to comply with NTO 3.0, both parties reached an agreement on Thursday.
Industry sources confirmed that the remaining six members of the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) will sign the interconnection deals with the broadcasters without prejudice.
As per the resolution reached between the two parties, the interconnection agreements may be revised depending on the outcome of the court case.
Following the resolution, the three broadcasters – Disney Star India, Zee Entertainment and Sony TV – are expected to resume the signals of their channels soon to all the cable operators.
According to highly placed sources, the formula of signing RIO deals without prejudice was offered to the cable operators by TRAI officials and broadcasters much before the disconnection notices were issued.
The cable operators did not agree to that formula in the anticipation of an interim stay on NTO 3.0 from the Kerala High Court in the name of public suffering.
However, the court refused to grant any relief after hearing the matter for four days in a row. In the meantime, seven large MSOs switched sides.
Sensing no relief from the court in near future, the remaining six members of AIDCF decided to end the impasse and accept the formula.
Earlier on Thursday, the broadcasters told the Kerala High Court that AIDCF has challenged TRAI's 2022 new tariff order purely for commercial interests and not because they were concerned about the consumers.
Star, represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, told Justice Shaji P Chaly that MSOs get Rs 130 per consumer per set-top box each month and want the price cap on channels to be at Rs 12 so that the consumer base increases.
“Because of the NCF, cable subscribers do not get free-to-air channels for free. They even pay to watch Doordarshan channels. But the cable operators want broadcasters to not increase the prices,” Rohatgi contended.
Besides that, the MSOs get 20 per cent commission from the subscription collected from each consumer.
"So the commission would depend upon the channel price," the senior lawyer contended.
Then there are three other revenue streams for MSOs including carriage fees, placement fees and incentives from broadcasters, Rohatgi said.
The broadcasters, including Sony and Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) also told the court that nearly 97 per cent of the stakeholders have signed the agreement and therefore, crores of consumers are not affected as claimed by the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF).
The broadcasters were arguing for the dismissal of AIDCF's plea challenging telecom regulator TRAI's November 2022 interconnect regulations and tariff order.
AIDCF has claimed in its plea that under the 2020 regime, the price of the "driver" channel in a bouquet was capped at Rs 12, but under the latest tariff order it has been increased to Rs 19.
However, even the 2020 regime was not properly implemented till now by TRAI, it had alleged.
TRAI had refuted the allegation, saying that the 2020 regulations and tariff order regarding TV channel pricing was not implemented as all stakeholders, including AIDCF, were of the view that it requires a re-look.
The telecom regulator also claimed that AIDCF had consented to the price cap of Rs 19 per channel.
The multi-system operators (MSOs), represented by the AIDCF and the Kerala Communicators Cable Ltd, have contended in their plea that TRAI's amended interconnect regulations and tariff order of November last year were "arbitrary" and "take away from the consumer their choice and autonomy".