ESPN Star Sports has cut off its services to cable operator Asianet on the ground of huge outstanding dues even as the latter accused Star Sports of resorting to arm-twisting tactics against cable operators.
Mr Sricharan Iyengar, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd, said in a statement here said that the Asianet had refused to respond to all efforts made by ESPN to have the outstanding dues cleared and also not paid the routine monthly subscription fees since September.
He pointed out that the annual service agreement between ESPN and Asianet expired on November 30. Despite numerous attempts and meetings, it is now apparent that the cable operator is not serious about renewing the contract or showing ESPN channels, he said.
ESPN Star Sports is left with no choice but to discontinue its services till the outstanding amount is realised. If the matter is not resolved early enough by the cable operator, Mr Iyengar said, viewers may end up missing India- Bangladesh series, Pakistan-Australia series, and the ongoing English and Spanish Premium League football matches.
The consumer might protest deducting the cost of the ESPN and Star Sports channels from their monthly cable bills. He said Rs 39.70 is the cost of ESPN and Star Sports. He said TRAI had clearly mandated that in case any channel is not telecast, consumers could not be charged for these channels.
Our Thiruvananthapuram Bureau adds: Asianet Satellite Communications has charged ESPN Star Sports with resorting to arm-twisting tactics against cable operators.
A spokesman said here that the decision of ESPN Star Sports to switch off signals showed its combative mood. The signals were yanked in the dead of the night after faxing a message well after the office closed for the day on Saturday. This was tantamount to discontinuation of service without sufficient notice, the spokesman said.
The agreement between Asianet and ESPN Star expired on November 30 and negotiations were on for granting it extended validity. On its part, Asianet had suggested removing from the agreement some of the "one-sided clauses" that were inconsistent with Indian laws. It had demanded that parity be assured between rates charged by ESPN Star and those charged by other channel operators in Kerala and other parts of the country.
ESPN Star had blanked its signals without notice on a previous occasion when India was playing Australia in the away-tour, in a tactic typical of the rights-owning channel upping the ante on the eve of important sport events merely to extract a price it fancied, the spokesman said. Now it is the India-Bangladesh cricket series, which is due to commence on December 9.
If Asianet were to give in to "the unreasonable demands" of ESPN Star, television viewers in Kerala would find themselves at the receiving end as they would be required to cough up additional cost for viewing their favourite sporting event live on screen.
Asianet had absorbed the burden of the enhanced payouts in recent years without passing it on to the consumers, the spokesman said. "We would like to inform our viewers that the one-day cricket match between India and Bangladesh is going to be simulcast on Doordarshan," he added.