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Dispute with MSOs causes Sony's ratings to plummet

06-December-2013
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Dispute with MSOs causes Sony's ratings to plummet

Sony’s decline in TV ratings continued in Week 48 of 2013. As per the ratings data sourced from TAM subscribers for Week 48 (Nov 24 – Nov 30) Sony garnered gross TVTs of 239 million as against 269 million TVTs in Week 47. The channel had witnessed a decline in viewership in the previous week as well.

The reason for this decline might not only be because some part of their content is not working; it is also because the channel’s positioning and placement has suffered in the past few weeks due to the ongoing dispute between One Alliance and the two major MSOs – DEN and Hathway.

Both the sides have different versions of the story. Sony had got a stay order from TDSAT against DEN Networks some time ago. The MSO had stopped airing the channel in its key markets. Earlier Sony’s dispute with Hathway was also widely reported, where the latter had stopped airing the former’s signal for some time. Senior officials we spoke to said that much of Sony’s present downfall in ratings is because of either the blockage of the signals of the channel or altering its placement. The latter is likely to be a more genuine cause. The key markets affected are Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. The positioning has also been changed in Chennai, but the southern market is likely to have less effect on the Hindi GEC.

“Sony is demanding better positioning. It is demanding unrealistic subscription return. When we demanded higher placement fee in return, the channel refused. This is the bone of contention. For example, an average ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) for a cable user is Rs 200/month. In a city like Mumbai, the entertainment and service tax demanded by Government is Rs 63 (45+18). The LCO which has installed the set top box at the grassroots demands Rs 100, which is fair too. With the remaining amount, the channels demand subscription money. One has to compromise at either end. Sony is not ready to pay the higher placement fee demanded by MSOs,” said a highly placed official at Hathway Cable, on condition of anonymity.

On the other hand, Rajesh Kaul, President, One Alliance, the joint distribution arm of MSM –Discovery Group said, “Since digitisation has happened, we had held hands with the MSOs from Day 1, and sacrificed our share of revenue so that they (MSOs) can recover their investments. Now the time has come that we demand our share of revenue, which is fair. We already have a two-year contract in Phase II with Hathway in certain markets where we are ready to honor the extra demand made by them. This contract is likely to end in March 2014. Changing the placement or blockage of signals in these markets is the violation of the contract. But we are talking and discussing with the operators and the issue will be resolved soon with mutual consent.”

Experts we spoke to have mentioned that there is a lack of co-ordination among LCOs and MSOs and the time has come to get a better ARPU from the consumer. MSOs, on the other hand, are blaming the channels and their distribution arms for demanding unnecessary subscription fees. Reportedly, there are major issues of MSOs with Media Pro (distribution arm of ZEE and STAR Network) and IndiaCast (Distribution arm of Viacom18 Network) as well.

As reported earlier by exchange4media, post digitisation such disputes are likely to intensify. As the distribution sector is trying to become more organised, interests of many stakeholders on either side are at stake, which is leading to intense bargaining and negotiation of deals, making disputes inevitable.

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