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Hathway can bundle Star channels: TDSAT

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MUMBAI: The Star India and Hathway Cable & Datacom case regarding the former’s various channels has got an interim relief from the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). 

As per the order passed on 28 July, TDSAT has asked both Hathway and Star India to enter into cost per subscriber (CPS) deals, starting August. According to this deal, the multi system operator (MSO) will pay Rs 27 per subscriber to the broadcaster for its entire bouquet, which includes entertainment and sports.

It can be noted that earlier Hathway had two separate deals with the broadcaster- one for its sports channels handled separately and the other for the entertainment channels, which was handled by the now dissolved joint venture MediaPro.

The Rs 27 CPS deal is a mid way arrangement proposed by TDSAT as against Hathway’s demand for Rs 22 per subscriber deal and Star’s Rs 31 per subscriber deal.  This means that the MSO has to pay an additional amount for the sports channels now, on a set top box deal, as compared to the RIO deal earlier.

In its interim order, TDSAT has also clarified that Hathway has all the right to bundle the channels the way it feels right. However, the MSO will have to include at least one channel in one/any bouquets that it offers to its subscribers. 

The issue had gained magnitude when Hathway decided to remove Star Sports channels from its base pack to create a separate sports pack and also provide them a-la-carte. The broadcaster objected to this move and took the MSO to the court.

Meanwhile, the court has asked Hathway to clear its dues from April to July this year. This can be calculated at Rs 23 per subscriber for its entertainment channels and RIO for its sports channels together. While Star claims that this amounts to a total of Rs 27 crore, according to Hathway officials, the price is still being worked out. The total amount has to be paid by 30 August. A Hathway official says, “We are disappointed with this particular point as we believe that Rs 23 is much higher than the amount we would have actually paid to Star India as per the agreement between Star and Zee for price sharing after the split of MediaPro.”

A source from Star India says, “Hathway was not paying us because of lack of clarity in the payment deals of sports and entertainment together. With this order, the integrated CPS has been recognised.”

However, both parties agree that this case cannot be taken as a basis for future deals with others. According to officials from both Hathway and Star, the Rs 27 CPS deal cannot be applied to other distribution platform operators.

The case will next be heard on 11 August.

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