Delhi-based cable body to black out ESPN Star Sports

The Delhi-based National Cable and Telecommunications Association, representing a section of cable operators in the north, says it will switch off retransmission for ESPN Star Sports for two months.

An NCTA release says that at yesterday's meeting of the NC TA in New Delhi, the cable TV service providers agreed to take a consolidated stand against "the arbitrary increase in the subscription fee" for the two channels. Among the independent cable TV service providers and MSOs who the NCTA says have decided to do battle with ESPN are the Zee group promoted Siti Cable, the Hinduja Group's InCablenet, Hathway Cables promoted Win Cable, Home Cable and Spectra Net. According to the NCTA release, the MSOs decided while transmission would be suspended for an initial period of two months, they would also be collectively returning the viewing cards of the IRD'S provided by ESPN Software, so that they are not charged for the duration in which they do not avail the services of the two channels for re-distribution.

Sources in Hathway however denied that they had switched of the feed and said both the channels were being screened. Queried as to whether Win Cable (Hathway is an 80 per cent stakeholder while the remaining 20 per cent is held by ETC Networks Ltd) had signed on to the new subscription regime of ESPN Star Sports, he said talks were still on. The NCTA has taken offence at the print advertisement put out by ESPN Software in some English dailies, allegedly 'derogatory' to cable TV service providers. The meeting decided to initiate necessary legal steps against ESPN Software in protest against the offending ad, which is ostensibly meant to goad the viewer into insisting for the two sports channels from the cable op. The ops say the viewers are unconvinced that the hike is justified, as both channels are "event based and are watched only for the duration that any major sports event is transmitted."

"The stand taken by the service providers is significant because this pay TV broadcaster insist upon charging subscription fee from Cable TV service providers even for the duration they do not avail the services of the said company for redistribution purposes," says the NCTA release. The association has also asked that if any advance payment has already been made to the pay channels by the cable ops, it will have to be adjusted once redistribution is resumed.

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