ESPN Star Sports is planning to increase subscription rates of its two sporting channels from Rs 16 to Rs 22-24 by January 2002. A decision on hiking the rates is expected to be made within two weeks, after which intimation will be made to the cable operators.
The annual contract with most of the cable operators in the country will come to an end in December.
The company is indicating a monthly increase of Rs 6-8 per subscriber to get an initial feedback from the market.
The stumbling block, however, may be that ESPN Star Sports does not have any live cricket till April next year. DD Sports has rights to telecast international cricket from within the country, starting with England’s tour of India. Doordarshan’s sports channel, distributed by Modi Entertainment Network, has recently increased the subscription rates.
Cable operators, already saddled with the imminent rise in pay channel prices from Star network early next year, are hoping that they can flex their muscles as ESPN Star Sports does not have any live cricket to show till April.
ESPN Star Sports, however, believes that other sporting events like football and Formula 1 are gaining in popularity. Besides, the programme Super Selector is riding high.
Industry analysts, are sceptical whether non-cricket live events can draw a pull to drive distribution of pay channels. It is after April that ESPN Star Sports has three cricket tours as India plays against West Indies, England and New Zealand.