Star shuts feeds to IN Cable in Mumbai; MSO says it has moved court

Star India this evening switched off all its feeds to IN Cable in Mumbai city over what it said were unpaid payments going back three months and a massive under-declaration of its subscriber base on the part of the multi-systems operator (MSO). IN Cable on its part claimed it had filed a court case against what it termed were "predatory practices" by broadcasters.

IN Cable CEO Ram Hingorani said that Star, ESPN and AXN - the action channel from the Sony Entertainment Television's stable - had all ganged up and formed a cartel against it. Hingorani alleged that SET India has also switched off its AXN decoders in the IN Cable headends but Sony officials could not be contacted for details at the time of posting this report.

According to Yash Khanna, Star's corporate communications head, the shut-off was the culmination of a long-standing dispute with IN Cable over its declared connectivity. "IN Cable claims 1.5 million subscribers when chasing advertising, but when they come back to us they say the figure is less than 150,000. That's not even 10 per cent of their actual subscriber base," Khanna pointed out.

There is also the issue of nonpayment of dues, Khanna said. "IN Cable has been seeking more time to pay its dues for the last three months now. We decided that enough was enough," he added.

The shutoff comes close on the heels of the blanking out of sports channels, ESPN and Star Sports, by the ESPN-Star Sports management following a tussle over subscription bases on 7 June. The shutoff had caused a lot of consternation among viewers because it happened just before the start of the India-Zimbabwe Test cricket series.

During the recently held England-Pakistan one-day series, ESPN-Star Sports went to the extent of announcing that any subscriber of IN Cablenet watching the transmission of the match was doing something illegal as it was a pirated signal and an act such as this was liable for penal action.

This hasn't prevented local sub-ops affiliated to IN Cable from stealing the ESPN Star Sports signal though, from other cable operators.

Hingorani could not be reached later for more details on his version of the events despite repeated attempts. Apparently, he is scheduled to meet with the Star distribution team to sort out the issue tomorrow morning.

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