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STAR saas sop after circular sting

New Delhi, July 19: STAR has offered to pit the might of its soap operas’ saas and bahu to popularise set-top boxes if cable operators and multi-system operators fall in line with its requirement to implement the conditional access system.

A clutch of pay channel broadcasters led by STAR were expected by the information and broadcasting ministry to come out with pay channel rates under CAS today. STAR, however, has circulated a questionnaire among MSOs and cable operators to verify their credentials before giving the nod.

STAR sources said today that after they get the feedback from the industry, they will get celebrities to endorse CAS — that will make set-top boxes a must to view pay channels — and announce rates on air possibly from Monday.

Cable operators and MSOs who have been demanding the implementation of CAS have so far been alleging that STAR was the main stumbling block in the rollout plan. Set-top boxes are to be made mandatory zone-wise in the four metros from September 1.

A spokesman for independent cable operators, Vikki Chaudhary, claimed that the STAR questionnaire was another excuse to deny the benefit of a “honeymoon” period — the month preceding the CAS rollout — to operators and viewers.

“What business does STAR have to ask operators such questions as ‘who owns a cable operation’ or ‘what is your revenue’ or ‘have there been charges of copyright violation against you’' We are not asking Mr Rupert Murdoch what his nationality is and why he should be here'” Chaudhary asked.

It is also unlikely that pay channel broadcasters will effect dramatic changes to rates they have announced. However, operators expect that they will be able to come out with “packages” that will make it possible to market set-top boxes.

Sources in the I&B ministry yesterday said broadcasters would independently announce rates of pay channels. The government has been urging broadcasters to keep rates low — around Rs 200 per subscription inclusive of the basic tier fee of Rs 72 (plus taxes).

Asked about pay channel rates, ESPN’s Manu Sawhney said “we are still in discussions with cable operators and MSOs... What can happen now is volume discounts and we are trying to work out different packages”.

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