Cable TV

Star to hike cable rates from 1 March; cable operators oppose move

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MUMBAI: The waiting is over as far as Star's subscription package is concerned. The talk has been doing the rounds for a while that Star is going in for a further hike in its subscription rates and come 1 March, that will be the case.

The Star bouquet (Star Plus, Star News, Star Movies, Star Gold, Star World, Channel V and National Geographic) will now cost between Rs 28-RS 30 per subscriber, depending on the connectivity of the cable operators. Big multi-system operators who were paying RS 22 will have to cough out RS 28 per subscriber. Smaller operators will have to pay more.

If the mood among operators is anything to go by though, they are unlikely to easily accept the the new rates without a fight.

Shamim Shaikh of Mumbai-based independent MSO Seven Star Satellite Network says there was no question of their accepting the new package. "None of the operators will accept these new rates and except for Hathway (where Star has a 26 per cent stake) it will probably lead to a situation that Star will switch off our feeds," Shaikh says.

"We have not hiked our subscription rate after the annual revision in April 2000," Star's head of corporate communications Yash Khanna said, adding that a revision was due.

"Star is fudging figures if it claims that," Shaikh says, when this was pointed out to him. "Last year the rates were RS 16.75. Except for the addition of Star Gold which no one wants to watch anyway what's new in what Star is offering?" Shaikh asks. "The actual rate hike works out to 70 per cent. The Zee bouquet costs us RS 13 so how does Star justify its pricing?"

(Will he and several other cable operators sing the same tune when Zee Telefilms revises its package to RS 20 and above in the next two months after encrypting Zee TV?)

It appears that Star is banking on the popularity of shows like "Kaun Banega Crorepati" and certain other serials like "Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi" and "Saans", on Star Plus to get operators to toe the line.

Though Star officials refused to comment on the price hike, Financial Express, quoting sources, said cable operators have been issued letters, informing them of the increase. Star distribution officials, it is reliably learnt, are meeting in Goa to discuss about the price hike.

Another issue being debated is how to increase the declared connectivity. The exact price hike would depend on the related issue of paid subscribers.

Star's decision to increase the price of its pay channels follows soon after a major spat with Siticable in Delhi which was only recently settled. Cable operators are expected to meet in Pune to mobilise opposition against the hike. They are threatening to boycott carrying Star bouquet of channels in Gujarat and Pune, Financial Express reported.

An industry source said there was opposition to the hike in South and Central India also.

How the issue will pan out should become clearer in the coming days.

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