Sony network channels off Siti in Delhi

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The switch-offs have started. Even as the World Cup cricket draws nearer, a face off has developed between Sony Entertainment TV and Zee Group multi-system operator (MSO) Siti Cable. Zee's cable arm has switched off, since yesterday, the channels of One Alliance on all its networks in Delhi and is threatening that the black-out may spread to other parts of the country too, against what Siti says is Sony's "arm-twisting".

"Siti Cable is not carrying Sony bouquet channels in Delhi region (which also includes neighbouring towns like Noida and Faridabad) on its networks because of the arms twisting methods being adopted by Sony," a senior executive of Siti Cable told today morning.

Though the Siti Cable executive did not divulge much details of the face-off with Sony, it was pointed out that Sony recently started demanding not only a hike in the subscription money, but also the subscriber base "without sitting across the table for a proper discussion."

Sony and Siti Cable, it is learnt from the industry, have an agreement in place for Delhi, signed about four months back, which runs till 31 December.

SET distribution head Shantonu Aditya hit out against Siti's claims saying: "They haven't paid us for dues pending since March. Is collecting genuine outstandings arm-twisting?" Aditya says that when the issue had come up for discussions with Siti, the MSO had put forward a proposal to pay the dues in instalments. Queried as to why SET had not cracked on collections during the ICC Champions Trophy in September, Aditya responded: "It was an error of judgment on our part in trusting them and agreeing to their offer (of payments in instalments)."

Aditya says the problem is not just one of outstandings. There is also the issue of underdeclaration. Taking the example of Faridabad city, he says Siti is declaring only 3,000 subscribers. This is unacceptable, he asserts.

Yesterday's development in Delhi was waiting to happen, it seems. A few days back Sony had switched off some Siti operators in Delhi on alleged non-payment of dues and then switched them on again.

In most parts of Delhi, except the Sony channels, the other bouquet channels had gone missing much before yesterday from those networks which are directly or indirectly affiliated to Siti Cable.

Though Sony has a justifiable claim to ask for an increase in the subscriber base (which currently stands at between 65,000-70,000) from Siti in Delhi, what seems to have irked the latter is the "inadequacy on the part of Sony to properly articulate its demands" and that too before an existing agreement has come to an end.

Keep tuned in for more updates on a new season of face-offs.

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