Asianet switches off ESS channels

MUMBAI: Television viewers of Kerala will not be able to watch the India-England cricket contest due to an unsettled tussled between ESPN Star Sports and Asianet Satellite Communications, the state‘s leading multi-system operator (MSO).

Asianet has switched off the ESPN Star Sports channels as it is unwilling to get into a contract on what it terms is "unjustifiable commercial terms". The channels that are off the cable network include ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket.
"ESPN Star Sports (ESS) is charging us not in proportion to what they are asking from the other cable TV networks in Kerala. Sports property has got fragmented and we are not in a position to cede to their demands. We had signed them on very high terms due to the soccer World Cup in 2010 as in Kerala it is a very hot property. They are asking us to continue on those terms which on our part is not a sustainable subscription payout," Asianet Satellite Communications president and chief executive officer Sankaranarayana told

ESS‘s contract with Asianet expired in May but it still continued providing the channels. "Asianet cable was adamant and wanted unreasonable discounts. It was very apparent from the initial stages of the discussion that they had made up their mind to discontinue our services,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

Asianet had earlier discontinued the ESS channels in April 2010 but the pressure of showing the football World Cup forced them to sign a contract with the sports broadcaster just days ahead of the event in June. "We had the contract for a year and had advertised (mandatory before blacking out) so that we could switch them off on 31 May. But there was some technical error pointed out by others (advertising in local languages) and we had to come out with a fresh ad in the local dailies. So in the first week of July we switched them off," said Sankaranarayana. 
Asianet is also planning to take the legal course. “Asianet has been providing the services for about 18 years now and has successfully kept the subscription rates stable across Kerala despite huge cost escalation on all fronts to protect the consumer interests. The sports content from ESPN /Star Cricket is taken away by other broadcasters and Asianet is subscribing to other broadcasters also.

Major cricket events like ODI matches has been mandated by government to be shown on Doordarshan. Five India-England ODI matches will be available on DD. The cricket matches played in India, South Africa, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan, West-Indies and New Zealand rights are with other broadcasters. ESS also lost French open and US open rights to other broadcasters, which calls for drastic reduction in subscription charged by ESS,” Sankaranarayana said.

India’s tour of England, which started on 21 July, consists of four Test matches, five ODIs and one T20 match.

Said ESPN Software India senior director – affiliate sales Rajib Mukherjee, “The contract with Asianet expired way back in May 2011 but we continued our services understanding very well that Kerala is a sports loving market and we wanted to somehow ensure that all cable viewers in the state get to the see the India-England series.

We would want to ensure that each and every household in Kerala gets to see our channels, but in this case the cable operator continues to charge from the ground but refuses to pay the broadcaster.”

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