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Sports lovers in State may miss live action

Dennis Marcus Mathew

Channel firms, cable company differ over subscription fee

ALAPPUZHA: When the State's biggest cable television operator and the world's leading sports channels lock horns over subscription fee, Kerala's sports lovers feel the pain.

With Asianet Satellite Communications, the firm that runs Asianet Cable Vision (ACV), a cable television network spread across the State, issuing notifications to switch off services of ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket, viewers are likely to miss prime sporting action, particularly the Indian cricket team's forthcoming tour of England.

Even now, with the removal of Ten Cricket from the Asianet Cable Vision menu, they are unable to watch the ongoing India-West Indies tour.

Adamant stance

Rajib Mukherji, senior director (Affiliate Sales), ESPN Software India Private Limited, New Delhi, confirmed to The Hindu that viewers across Kerala would miss live action of Wimbledon, Formula One racing, India's cricket tour of England, Champions League T20, and even India's tour of Australia later this year, if ACV stuck to its stance.

The spat between various sports channels and ACV has seen the blacking out of some channels from the Zee bouquet as well.

ESPN's take

“Asianet is taking advantage of the distribution monopoly on the ground. They want subscriptions from each and every household, but are not ready to pass on the benefits to consumers. This is unfair. If they are switching off channels, then they should also reduce effective consumer price,” Mr. Mukherji said, pointing out that though these channels were not telecast, viewers would still have to pay for them.

Mr. Mukherji refuted allegations that ESPN had increased prices on this ground.

“ESPN is part of a regulated industry and no broadcaster can increase the price unilaterally. To put it on record, we have not increased our prices,” he said.

Meanwhile, Asianet has responded that it had not threatened to switch off the channels, but had only asked that rates to be paid to ESPN be reduced, particularly when there were not many sporting events.

An official of Asianet Cable Vision told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that ESPN had said that it would hike price, which meant Asianet would be forced to pass on the burden to the customer, something which the firm had not done in 18 years.

“ESPN is threatening to hike prices, something they do regularly during events that have high viewership in India,” he alleged, adding that Asianet was trying to hold negotiations with ESPN and would try its best to prevent a cascading effect if ESPN hiked its rates.

Another cable operator quipped that viewers in Kerala would not have to go through this if the Conditional Access (CA) system was introduced here on the lines of metros like Mumbai.

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