Television

Star India on watch as Hathway implements RIO TDSAT order

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MUMBAI: The seven month long battle between multisystem operator (MSO) Hathway Cable and Datacom on one hand and Star India and Taj Television on the other, finally ended last week, with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) directing Hathway to execute an interconnect agreement based on Star?s Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO). 

The TDSAT had directed the two to sign the interconnect agreement in its current form and approach the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in case of any objections with parts of the RIO. ?We have signed the RIO in its current form and have sent it to Star,? informs Hathway Cable and Datacom MD and CEO Jagdish Kumar.

But, having said this, Star still seems to have some concerns. ?As of today, the Star channels have been dropped on Hathway in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. So while channels like Star Movies, Star World have been switched off from the Mumbai headend, in Ahmedabad, except Star Plus and Star Movies, all the other channels from the network have been dropped,? says a industry source close to the development.

According to the same source, Hathway, fundamentally has been offering less channels at a higher price to consumers, as compared to the other MSOs or DTH operators in the same market.

?Currently, the MSO has shown a consistent behaviour and pattern of taking on the broadcasters. It has been dropping channels and moving them to a la carte and has been depriving a significant number of consumers of good content,? he further adds.

The network is looking forward to the way the changes will be communicated by the MSO to the customers. ?The consumers will have to call the MSO and find out how they can subscribe to the channels as it is no longer available in the packs. And so communication is crucial,? the source informs. 

According to Hathway?s Kumar, with the court ordering the MSO to follow procedures from 1 October, it is doing everything they can to inform their subscribers.  ?We are using various means of communication. So while the first thing we are doing is communicating to our local cable operators, we have also put tickers on our channels, informing consumers that Star channels will be available on a la carte, henceforth. This apart, all the MSOs together are coming up with a press release in order to inform the consumers about the change,? says Kumar.

Kumar says, that Hathway will continue to inform its LCOs and subscribers, even after the initial phase.

Hathway will be providing non-sports channels of Star at Rs 10 each, and sports channels for Rs 20 to its consumers.

 The MSO believes it can still make a good profit margin at these rates, even though this looks challenging, considering the range of RIO pricing for the Star package is from 52 paisa for Channel V to Rs 17.39 for Star Sports2 and Rs 2.36 for Star World.

?But we didn?t want to confuse our customers with so many price points, and so came up with this plan. So while we expect to make a good margin for Channel V, the margin for Star Plus which is for Rs 9 will be small. But overall, we hope to make a good margin,? ends Kumar. 

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