ESS switches off signals to GTPL in Gujarat

MUMBAI: Sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports is increasing pressure on cable TV networks to increase payouts on the wake of a one-year live cricket content that their channel Star Cricket will showcase beginning with the India-New Zealand series.

ESS has switched off signals to Gujarat Telelink Private Limited (GTPL), a year after their distribution pact with the leading multi-system operator (MSO) in Gujarat ended. Their stated grouse: non-payment of subscription fees running into millions of rupees.

ESS‘ upcoming live cricket telecast content spread over a year includes ICC Twenty20 World Cup, Champions League Twenty20 and a host of bi-lateral series like India-England, India-Pakistan and India-Australia.

ESPN Software India (ESI), the company that operates ESPN, Star Sports, Star Cricket, ESPN HD and Star Cricket HD channels, had switched off the signals in August after issuing a formal deactivation notice.

"We tried our best to resolve the issue. We were forced to take such a stance as GTPL did not pay us for the services availed. The outstandings are huge and run into crores of rupees," says ESPN Software India Vice President – Affiliate sales T S Panesar.

GTPL founder-promoter and managing director Anirudh Sinh Jadeja is not happy with the increase in payouts that ESS‘ is asking for a fresh deal and is negotiating better terms. "We will clear the dues. But they are asking for almost 20-25 per cent increase. That is too high in the current economic situation," he says.

The one-year distribution deal between ESS and GTPL, in which Hathway Cable & Datacom owns 50 per cent stake, ended 31 July last year. However, the former continued getting signals for almost a year.

Explains Panesar, "GTPL assured us that they would renew the contract and clear all outstanding dues soon. Since GTPL has been our customer for long, we kept providing signals of ESPN Star Sports channels based on that assurance.During this time, their network has also grown."

Jadeja is hopeful that the two parties would work out a pact within three-four months. Panesar, however, is firm that any new contract will hinge on GTPL‘s ability to clear dues. "We have not had any discussions on the future contracts. Given the huge outstanding that they have pending to clear with us, we are keen on getting our outstandings cleared first before talking about the future," he asserts.

GTPL will, indeed, have to hurry with the deal if it wants the to show the ICC T20 World Cup to its cable TV subscribers. The big event kicks off from 18 September and runs till 7 October.

ESS had recently entered into a deal with Kerala‘s leading MSO Asianet Cable Vision to end the three-year stand-off that arose since the two could agree on commercial terms.

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