TDSAT Rejects Plea Against Free Streaming of Star Sports on OTT Platform

In an order dated October 4, 2023, the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) rejected the plea against free streaming of the Star Sports channel on the Over-the-top (OTT) platform, Disney+ Hotstar and held that prima facie, OTT platforms were not TV channels and weren’t covered by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).[1]

In this case, the petitioner was being charged by the respondent, Star India Pvt Ltd, for the Star Sports channel. However, viewers could stream the channel’s content on the said OTT platform on mobile devices for free. Alleging that the same was in violation of Regulation 3(2) of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017, the petitioner filed a broadcasting petition with the TDSAT. The said regulation requires broadcasters to provide signals of television channels to the distributors on a non-discriminatory basis.

With this, the petitioner sought an interim relief restraining the respondent from offering the said channel free of charge on the OTT platform or directing that the channel be provided free of charge to the petitioner as well.

At the same time, the petitioner filed a writ petition, which is currently pending before the Delhi High Court.[2] One of the issues raised before the Court was that broadcasters have to offer linear channels to OTT subscribers at the same price as it is being offered to the DPOs (Distribution Platform Operators).

Holding that prima facie, OTT platforms were not TV channels, and the respondent was not required to obtain any permission or licence from the Central Government, the Tribunal rejected the petitioner’s plea for interim relief and listed the matter on December 18, 2023.

[1] All India Digital Cable Federation v. Star India Pvt Ltd (Broadcasting Petition 217/2023 with Misc Application 236/2023)

[2] All India Digital Cable Federation v. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India [WP(C) 12906/2023]