ESPN and Star Sports back on cable homes in the Philippines

If in India it's cricket, in the Philippines it is basketball that gets the sports fan in a tizzy. 

After just under six months off the air on the Sky Cable, Home Cable and PCC platforms, the ESPN and Star Sports channels came back on TV screens in the Philippines on April 17. This followed a new agreement between the Rupert Murdoch-promoted Star Group Limited and the three cable entities. The agreement also includes other Star Group channels - National Geographic, Star Movies and Star World, an official statement says.

The agreement was thrashed out ahead of the NBA Playoffs and Finals, which will be telecast on ESPN and Star Sports channels starting this month. With Sky Cable, Home Cable and PCC comprising 75 per cent of cable households in the Philippines, Filipino basketball fans can heave a huge sigh of relief.

Rik Dovey, managing director of ESPN STAR Sports said: "The Philippines is a key Asian sports TV market with a high demand for quality sports programming. We're happy to have ESPN and Star Sports accessible again to cable subscribers in the Philippines who've consistently expressed their passion for a variety of sports and NBA in particular."

The dispute reportedly goes back to 22 October, 2001, when Star TV pulled the plug on Sky Cable and Home Cable over unpaid fees the broadcaster said was in the millions of Filipino dollars. 

Star Group regional director Charles Pollard had been quoted as saying then that supply was "indefinitely suspended" over the cable systems' "non-payment of millions of (Filipino) dollars of fees" to Star and ESPN Star Sports. 

And in shades akin to the situation obtaining in India, Sky Cable and Home Cable had charged in a joint statement that Star TV was "trying to bully us into buying a bundle of six channels on a take all or nothing' basis," when the two only wanted Star Sports, Star Movies and ESPN. 

The two cable providers, which joined operations in early 2001, said they could not afford the new contract terms worth 10 million Filipino dollars, up from 5.5 million Filipino dollars for five channels.

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