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Fans suffer in channel blame game

STAR Sports blamed Hathway, the multi-system operator. Hathway blamed STAR Sports, the broadcaster. The customer didn’t know who to blame and how to get the sports channels back on TV.

In the confusion, a section of cable operators tried to make a fast buck.

Hathway, which has 3 lakh subscribers in the city, removed the STAR Sports channels from its packages on April 1 citing tariff hike by the broadcaster. It offered subscribers the option of buying any combination of the four channels a la carte.

With just two days to go for India’s semi-final showdown against South Africa in the T20 World Cup and the final on Sunday as well as top teams facing off in English football over the weekend, subscribers tried desperately to apply for the channels a la carte but without success.

Sports fans willing to pay whatever it takes found that many cable operators have gone incommunicado, others had no clue what was going on while some others asked customers to deposit the a la carte rate for three months first up.

“My cable operator told me to immediately deposit Rs 324, which is the a la carte price of the four channels for three months, if I wanted the channels back,” said Arghya Banerjee, 25, of Baguiati.

STAR Sports 1 and 2 cost Rs 25 each while 3 and 4 cost Rs 30 and Rs 28 respectively on the a la carte menu.

Arghya, who never misses any major football or cricket tournament, was ready to pay the premium amount but backed off after he asked the operator when the channels would be back on his set-top box.

“I have no idea. We need separate forms from Hathway to supply these channels a la carte. They haven’t sent us those forms,” he said quoting verbatim the cable operator.

The die-hard Liverpool fan realised straightaway that even if he paid up, he would miss his team’s Sunday clash with West Ham and many more matches after that.

An operator in Tollygunge had a similar reply, too. “The MSO will clarify everything on Thursday. Only then will I be able to tell you.”

STAR Sports came out strongly against Hathway on Wednesday, saying it had “breached obligations” to subscribers who had paid in advance for the channels.

All cable connections in the city are prepaid because the cable operator’s man collects in advance the month’s rental from households.

The broadcaster said they were “inundated with enquiries from agitated/confused consumers” because they thought “channels were switched off at our end”. “We have received complaints that many consumers are facing difficulties in getting our channels activated,” a STAR Sports spokesperson said in an email to Metro.

A senior Hathway official put the onus on STAR Sports, saying had they not raised the rates “none of this would have happened”.

The official said keeping STAR Sports in the package after the tariff hike is not “economically feasible”. “Many people are not interested in sports. Cable rates have already gone up. If we raise prices further, we will lose customers,” he added.

While other MSOs and DTH players are negotiating with the broadcaster to lower prices, Hathway went ahead and took the STAR Sports channels off.