ESPN-Star Sports vs InCable: Cable TV MSO says it will answer in court

Cable TV MSO InCable says it does not want to indulge in a trial by media following the switching of the transmission of ESPN-Star Sports channels by ESPN Software. 

"We will respond in court," says an official from the Hinduja group corporate office. "We are, however, determined not to give in to the arm-twisting tactics of pay channels, especially ESPN-Star Sports. They think pay TV channels can browbeat the cable TV industry when they want and extract their pound of flesh when we ourselves cannot recover enough money from our franchisees. Well, they are mistaken. We will fight it out."

The official says that InCable was shocked to receive a letter from ESPN Software on 31 December 2001 saying that since the MSO had not signed a new contract its decoders would be switched off from 1 January 2002. (Yes, the contract was from 31 December 2000 to 31 December 2002 and not up to June 2002 as reported by on 5 January.) 

"We replied on 3 January that we would like ESPN Software to forward the contract detailing the terms and conditions of its renewal. We also told the broadcaster not to terminate the transmission service of ESPN-Star Sports in the public interest. They have not forwarded the contract as yet," the official claims. "And on 5 January they switched off the channels." 

"Our communication to them affirms our willingness to renew terms with them," says the official. "It is they who are stonewalling our moves."

Sources indicate that ESPN-Star Sports was actually asking InCable to pay up for an increased subscriber base of 200,000 (as against 150,000 currently), apart from the higher subscription package of Rs 24 per sub.

The official says it would be better if pay channels realise the predicament cable TV MSOs are in as franchisees pay them Rs 30 for only 20 per cent of their real subscriber bases. "A gradual upward revision is what we are asking from pay channels until the addressable era becomes a reality," the official declares.

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