The federation, which represents cable companies GTPL Hathway, DEN Networks, Siti Networks and Hathway Digital, said that its customers are now demanding free live cricket
The AIDCF also stated that free streaming of major sporting events like the upcoming Cricket World Cup will hurt its members as pay TV customers migrate to OTT
Many streaming platforms in India which have sports IPs have been looking into ways to offer streaming sports events for free
The All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) has filed a petition with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), requesting that Star India cease offering free cricket match streams on its digital platform, Disney+Hotstar.
The federation, which represents cable companies GTPL Hathway, DEN Networks, Siti Networks and Hathway Digital, said that its customers are now demanding free live cricket, the Times of India reported, citing the petition.
This action comes in the wake of Disney+Hotstar’s decision to provide free access to the Asia Cup and the upcoming ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. The tribunal has issued a notice to Star India, requiring the company to file a reply by October 3.
It’s worth noting that Star India is also broadcasting these matches on the Star Sports network, a paid broadcasting service.
The difference in pricing has prompted the AIDCF to state that Star India is discriminating between different sets of users, per the ToI report. According to the federation, while cable TV subscribers are being charged for the same content, Disney+Hotstar users get it for free. This, they claim, contravenes the regulatory framework set forth by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
The AIDCF further contends that free streaming of major sporting events, such as the upcoming Cricket World Cup, will adversely affect its members as pay TV customers migrate to OTT streaming services.
The federation also mentioned that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s Downlinking Guidelines prohibit broadcasters from delivering services and content directly to customers except in the manner prescribed.
Free Sports Events On Streaming Platforms: A Growing Trend
Interestingly, several streaming platforms in India with sports IPs are exploring options to offer sports events at no cost.
The Reliance-owned JioCinema has been at the forefront of offering major sports events available for free on its streaming platform. The company, which also owns Viacom18, offered the FIFA World Cup for free last year. JioCinema continued the trend to offer an ad-based experience, offering the Indian Premier League (IPL) for free.
Disney+Hotstar, which lost out on IPL’s streaming rights in last year’s auction, has also started offering cricket matches for free in an ad-based streaming experience.
The total paid subscriber base of TV distribution platforms dropped to 120 Mn in 2022 compared to 125 Mn in 2021, according to a FICCI-EY report. Cable TV witnessed the biggest drop, as the subscriber base fell to 64 Mn in 2022, a drop of 4 Mn compared to 2021. The report added that the pay TV universe will continue to shrink, reaching 119 Mn paid users by 2025.
Meanwhile, paid video subscriptions reached 99 Mn in 2022 and are set to increase to 114 Mn by 2025.