Israels Keshet and HOT in Commercial Spat Over Copyright Infringement (EXCLUSIVE)

Keshet Media Group, one of Israel’s largest private media companies with scripted hits such as “Prisoners of War” and “When Heroes Fly,” is threatening to sue Israeli pay-TV powerhouse HOT for allegedly infringing its copyright by broadcasting Keshet content on its streaming service.

Keshet and HOT previously had two deals in place that allowed for Keshet content, including its flagship channel Keshet 12 (Israel’s leading commercial network), to be available to HOT subscribers on linear, VOD and streaming platform Next TV. Keshet says it reached out to HOT to renegotiate these deals, but to no avail. The agreements expired on March 31 and were extended until April 3. In a legal document obtained by Variety, Keshet says HOT is no longer allowed to broadcast its content outside linear.

Contacted by Variety, a spokesperson for HOT says both parties had begun negotiating the renewal of those deals — which led to the three-day extension of the agreement — but talks fell off after Keshet asked for “exorbitant charges.”

“Keshet is engaging in monopolistic practices within the commercial channels industry, which violates both the Communications and Competition Law. As a broadcast channel in Israel, Keshet is mandated by law to provide free public access,” said the spokesperson.

When the previous commercial agreements were signed, Keshet had been able to charge HOT for the live broadcast of Keshet 12, but the Israeli government has now made access to local broadcasters free. Keshet’s pricier demand for VOD/streaming rights is meant to compensate for the loss of revenue from its linear channel, per a source close to HOT.

“Despite failing to extend its temporary order allowing exorbitant charges for its broadcasts, Keshet is resorting to unlawful pressure tactics, undermining the essence of broadcast distribution laws, and engaging in questionable practices to increase its profits,” the HOT rep continued, adding that HOT “firmly expects the relevant authorities, including the Competition Authority and the Ministry of Communications, to take swift and decisive action against Keshet’s illicit behavior.” 

The HOT spokesperson also said that Keshet 12 will “continue to be available on HOT as legally required.”

In its legal warning, Keshet said HOT has “been in violation” for airing Keshet content without a license. The company also alleges that HOT “did not find it appropriate to contact Keshet sufficient time in advance to conduct negotiations on new licenses” and that talks only began two weeks before the end of the license periods, and after Keshet contacted HOT on the issue.

Keshet alleges that HOT has not yet removed library titles from its cable and streaming services. A source close to HOT said Keshet library content will soon be removed from its streamer.

Keshet also said it suspects that HOT, which is owned by Israeli-French billionaire Patrick Drahi’s company Altice, is “deliberately” stoking a legal spat in order to “stop competition in the field in which it holds a monopoly.”

Keshet recently formed a joint venture with media company RGE to launch a new OTT service across the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Named Free TV, the new platform will be competitively priced and boast combined streaming TV and fibre-based Internet services.

“HOT’s conduct is a continuation of its forceful steps, as the owner of a monopoly in multi-channel television and the owner of communication infrastructures, to harm Keshet and to harm the competition and the public,” Keshet said in its letter.

Keshet, which also operates the international distribution and production company Keshet International, recently renewed its agreements with other OTT services in Israel, including Partner TV and Cellcom TV.

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