Star channels have gone missing on the Siti network all over again around the country. This time around, Star has come out in the open to admit that it has switched off its entire bouquet on the SitiCable because of non-payment of dues. However, in the midst of the Star-Siti war, viewers may not be affected for very long, say cable operators, as Siti franchisees have started connecting to those networks which have a more lucrative bouquet.
Star even called up the Siti franchisees individually before it switched off the decoder for the entire Star bouquet. It was Star's way of giving chance to the Siti franchisees to get connected to other cable networks. And Star's strategy seems to have worked. Many of Siti franchisees have already moved over to either WIN (in which Star has a 26 per cent stake) or Hinduja's IN Cable. As a result, Siti's all-India reach may soon fall to around 10 per cent, as against 22 per cent now.
Reacting to Star switching off its bouquet on Siti, Mr. Raveesh Awasthi, CEO, Siti Cable, says: ``Siti Cable, as such doesn't owe anything to Star. We work with 77 joint venture partners who may have to make some payments to Star.”'
The main problem is about Zee-owned Siti Cable wanting a centralised deal with the broadcasters such as Star. Star, on the other hand, wants to stick to the local arrangement of dealing with the joint venture partners of Siti. A centralised payment system would help Siti garner revenues by under-declaring the number of subscribers. At present, the profit through under-declaration is cornered only by the JV partners or franchisees of Siti.
Siti also wants a centralised corporate arrangement with broadcasters, instead of local arrangements. At the moment Star wants to control the ground completely. The solution, is in clamping a sectoral cap for broadcasters getting into the cable industry and putting in place the conditional access system for pay channels.