STAR, which has had gone off the air for the last two months in Kolkata, has reached an agreement with the city’s cable operators. According to the informed sources STAR channels were available for consumers from Monday. Meanwhile, Discovery Communications, which had been blacked out by Hathway Cable & Datacom in Mumbai, is back on the network after an agreement was hammered out last week.
STAR’s dispute with Kolkata operators broke out after the network raised the subscription rate for its bouquet of six channels (minus Star Gold) by 54 per cent to Rs 25.75 a month per subscriber. Cable operators, including the leading network RPG Netcom, refused to pay the enhanced rate stating that STAR’s subscription hikes were arbitrary and too steep.
Under the terms of the new agreement, STAR has agreed not to force such a “harsh” hike in the rate next year. It has also agreed to give cable operators at least 45 days notice before revising rates to allow for negotiation and arbitration. The cable operators, on the other hand, have agreed to accept this year’s hike without any revision, the STAR spokesperson said.
Kolkata’s cable networks displayed surprising unity on the issue, and by and large STAR faced a complete blackout. RPG Netcom too, the largest of the multi-system operators (MSOs) with around 70 per cent of the Kolkata market, was a reluctant ally in the operators’ agitation as its franchisees refused to pay the enhanced STAR rates.
Meanwhile, another spat in Mumbai between Discovery Communications and Hathway was resolved recently. This paved the way for the Discovery and Animal Planet channels, that had been off the air for around two weeks in the Hathway areas in Mumbai, to be available again.
Sanjay Khanna, Discovery’s VP-markets and distribution, said Hathway had agreed to accept the enhanced rate of Rs 6.25 per subscriber per month for the two channels. The company had hiked the rates from Rs 4 to Rs 5.25 per sub for the Discovery channel from April 1, this year. The Re one per sub rate for Animal Planet remained the same.
In addition to the new rate, Discovery would be ramping up the number of subscribers which Hathway would pay for after a six month hiatus. This had been agreed to by Hathway, Khanna added.