Whether India would get to witness the willow war as the Men in Blue take on the Greens in Pakistan – that’s the issue of the time. The problem erupted after cable operators and TEN Sports, which has bagged the broadcasting rights of the tournament, locked horns over the demand for increased subscription charges.
Hordes of cable operators, under the banner of National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), united against the increase in subscription charges which many pay channels, including TEN Sports, have demanded. They said they were unable to pay four to five times the present subscription amount and might be forced to black out TEN Sports telecast during the matches.
“Not only TEN Sports, most of the pay broadcasters have demanded for four-five times the present subscription payments and they want this agreement for the next one year. We cannot sustain such payments,” said Vikky Choudhry, President, NCTA. Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) also came up to join hands with NCTA to fight against the “arbitrary hikes”.
If TEN Sports goes off the air, the only ray of hope for Indian cable TV subscribers could be the PTV II channel that, according to some cable operators, would telecast the matches on satellite. But, the uncertainty remains as the Pakistani channel could decide not to telecast these matches on satellite and only go for terrestrial transmission within the country.
“We want everyone to enjoy the sport and are working out strategies on how we could telecast the matches in India,” Choudhry told exchange4media.com.
Dwelling on the fracas, Choudhry alleged the BJP-led government for indulging the pay broadcasters’ demands. “It is the government indulgence that helped the pay broadcasters to consider hiking their charges by a whopping 1400 per cent over the last five years,” he said.
According to an official release from NCTA and COFI, STAR has asked for 58 per cent increase in subscription charges, closely followed by Zee with a demand for 35 per cent rise. TEN Sports has asked for a four to six times hike. “One can easily imagine where the prices will soar if this government comes to power once again,” Choudhry maintained.
Apart from implementation of Conditional Access System (CAS) in all four metros on an urgent basis, cable operators also reiterated their old demand for a cap on advertisements on pay channels. The associations demanded immediate intervention of the government to help Doordarshan get the telecast rights. As Choudhry puts it: “Pakistan government has managed the telecast rights from TEN Sports and fixed the rate at PRs 2 for each cable subscriber.”
Cable operators have also demanded for a level playing field with the direct-to-home and broadband services, which do not attract any entertainment tax or service tax as against the cable services where the entertainment tax rate is up to 30 per cent.