A full blown war of words is out between STAR Sports and the Raheja group-owned multi-system operator Hathway after the latter removed signals of channels of the global sports broadcaster from its packages and offered it for the more expensive pick and choose option.
While STAR Sports accused the multi-system-operator of violating the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) regulations by not informing customers in advance before offering its channels on a-la-carte basis, Hathway hit back by saying it has followed all the rules and regulations of the regulator. The sports broadcaster has carried out advertisements on TV, print and outdoor hoardings asking Hathway customers to switch on DTH if they were unable to watch its sports channels. The campaign hit a peak during the just concluded T20 World Cup."We are of the opinion that they have violated the quality of service regulation framed by Trai. Especially for Delhi and Mumbai, Hathway failed to inform consumers about change in composition of packs, when they were bound to inform consumer through running of scrolls on its screen and publish a prior notice in leading newspapers," a STAR Sports spokesperson said.Even for subscribers who had paid subscription fee in advance for six month to a year, they went ahead and changed the composition of the package, the spokesperson added. Denying the allegation, Hathway Managing Director and CEO Jagdish Kumar G Pillai said, "We have followed all rules and regulations of Trai...We have removed Star Sports from our existing packages and giving options to consumers to choose a channel or a package."Stating that 'the essence of disitisation is about giving consumers numerous options', he said: "We are confident that sports fans will pay a reasonable amount to view their favourite games."The dispute started after Hathway, a leading MSO with over 11 million subscription base in 140 cities removed Star Sports bouquet of four channels from its regular package and asked its viewers to pay a-la-carte to subscribe.When asked the reason for putting Star Sports channels on a-la cart basis, Pillai said: "We have been paying them on a fixed pay basis, which worked out to be a very unreasonable amount on a 'per subscriber' basis".However the Star Sports spokesperson said: "We were in the midst of negotiations and wanted to understand Hathway's future plans but they unilaterally went ahead and changed the composition of packs".Star Sports and Hathway had entered into a fixed fee deal to add the broadcaster's channels in a package without any linkage to the subscription base.According to Star, the parties had signed two separate agreements. While the first contract expired on October 31, 2013 catered to Delhi and Mumbai markets, the second contract expired in March 31, 2014 was for the places where digital addressable system (DAS) were notified by the government in the phase II of the digitalisation and Kolkata region.