The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has given the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) 15 days to return the 600 million baht the regulator contributed toward the purchase of World Cup football broadcast rights.
The NBTC wants its money back because not all television channels have been given equal opportunities to broadcast all matches of the football tournament live under the “must-carry” rule that the regulator oversees.
An estimated one million households nationwide with internet protocol TV (IPTV) are still seeing blank screens when they attempt to watch matches. They are hoping that a court ruling will reverse the blackout before too much longer, given that the World Cup quarter-finals begin on Friday.
The six-member NBTC board agreed unanimously on Thursday to sue the SAT in the Central Administrative Court after 15 days to seek a court order for enforcement of a refund.
The NBTC contributed 600 million baht from its development fund last month to help the cash-short SAT come up with the 1.4 billion baht needed to pay for the broadcast rights to the tournament. The final agreement was sealed with Fifa just three days before the opening kick-off in Qatar.
The SAT also needed help from other contributors, including True Corporation which came up with about 300 million baht. In return, the agency gave True the exclusive rights to show 32 matches of its choosing. That angered operators of other channels and the schedule was subsequently modified.
True was not happy, however, with an NBTC ruling that all IPTV operators must also be allowed to show matches for free, in keeping with the spirit of the must-carry rule.
On Nov 26, just one day after the NBTC spoke out, True won an injunction from the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, and IPTV subscribers’ screens went blank again. The court has still not issued its final ruling on the case.
Specifically, the injunction prohibits Super Broadband Network Co (SBN), the provider of AIS Play services, from broadcasting matches on its IPTV platform. But True sent a letter to all other IPTV providers warning them not to encroach on its turf.
SBN has filed a request with the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court to revoke its order. SBN said it had strictly abided by all NBTC rules related to broadcasting the event on AIS Play.
Even though the SAT signed the contract with Fifa’s licensing affiliate and is the rights holder of record, True maintains it is the sole owner of the rights to broadcast the tournament on IPTV and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
The World Cup tournament in Qatar started on Nov 20 and will end on Dec 18.