The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has ordered DTH operator Tata Sky to provide full refund to the customers for not providing Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) channels for a brief period back in 2018. To recall, Tata Sky entered into a battle with SPNI in the last quarter of 2018 over content renewal deal. Thanks to this fight, Tata Sky users were unable to watch any Sony Network channels between October 1, 2018, and December 5, 2018. After more than a year, Trai issued a directive to the DTH operator asking to provide a refund to the users who faced service disruption during this period. Furthermore, Tata Sky will have to reply to this directive by submitting a compliance report within 21 days.
Tata Sky Subscribers to Get Refund for Disruption of Service in 2018
Tata Sky is not known for entering into a battleground especially with broadcasters. However, at the end of 2018, the DTH operator faced contract renewal issues with Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI). Due to this issue, Tata Sky took down all the Sony Network channels from its platform; Tata Sky users were unable to watch SPNI channels between October 1, 2018, and December 5, 2018. So now, Trai asked to provide a refund to the users who paid for SPNI channels and faced disruption even after the subscription.
As part of Trai's directive, Tata Sky will have to furnish the entire list of subscribers to whom it will provide the refund. Trai asks Tata Sky to issue the refund irrespective of any amount. If Tata Sky fails to process the amount, Trai direct says the DTH operator should deposit the amount into the Telecommunication Consumers Education and Protection Fund (TCEPF).
As noted, Tata Sky will have to respond to this directive within 21 days. In the directive, Trai noted “no direct to home operator shall change the composition of a subscription package which has been subscribed to by a subscriber, so as to discontinue exhibition of any particular channel in that subscription package.”
This is not the first time Trai is asking a DTH operator to provide a refund to the users. In the past, Trai intervened in several broadcaster and DTH operator battles and helped the customers get a refund for the lost subscription period. It even asked Independent TV to issue a full refund to the customers before shutting down the services.
Tata Sky and SPNI Enters into 3-Year Content Deal
Tata Sky subscribers were unable to watch SPNI channels for nearly three months in straight. However, Tata Sky entered into a three-year content deal with Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) in January 2019 for a whopping amount of Rs 985 crore. As part of this deal, SPNI channels were back on Tata Sky's network and customers were able to view the same.
The deal which took place in January 2019 will continue till January 2022. Tata Sky will also have to bear an additional payout of up to 25% on the fixed deal basis viewership over the next three years. It will be interesting to see how Tata Sky responds to this refund directive from the sector regulator. The DTH operator has 21 days of time to come up with a reply. We believe the operator has no other choice left rather than providing a refund to the customers for the disruption period. The refund amount could be in crores as Tata Sky' subscriber base back then was over 25 million.