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DD does the STAR turn

- Relief for T20, not football

The almost forgotten DD National has made a comeback, batting in the unfamiliar position of a sports channel in over three lakh Hathway homes where the multi-system operator has taken STAR Sports off its package deals.

DD’s entry as nightwatchman ensures that cricket fans on Hathway will not miss the final stage of the T20 World Cup, but there is no such saviour for Liverpool fans, who have a big match against West Ham coming up on Sunday.

Hathway took off the four channels of STAR Sports at the start of this month. Fearing a backlash, it drafted the national broadcaster into its sports team ahead of Friday’s T20 World Cup semi-final between India and South Africa.

Hathway subscribers have been asked to go a la carte for STAR Sports, but are unable to take that option because of a stand-off between the MSO and cable operators over a newly introduced fee.

“Hathway has asked cable operators to pay Rs 5,000 upfront for rights to seek a la carte connections. The MSO will accept emails requesting a la carte connections only after we make the payment. We have decided not to make the payment because this could become the norm for other channels, in which case we will have to pass the burden,” said Akash Chakraborty, who provides Hathway signals to 1,600 homes in Salkia, Howrah.

For now, cricket fans tied to Hathway can relax. It is mandatory for any broadcaster who buys the rights to a cricket tournament featuring India to share the feed of all matches featuring the country as well as the knockout stages of that tournament with DD. Since DD National is free-to-air, Hathway cannot under any circumstance not provide that channel to its subscribers.

DD is, of course, infamous for switching to ads without waiting for a replay of a batsman’s dismissal or a big shot that momentarily halts the game. Then there is the Hindi commentary, peppered with lines like “Ballebaz lagatar sangharsh kar raha hain (the batsmen are fighting)” that quickly go from amusing to grating.

But at least there’s the option of watching cricket the way Ajit Tendulkar used to follow his famous brother’s innings: with the TV on mute.

Fans of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and current Premier League leaders Liverpool, who all have matches over the weekend, have no choice but to switch to DTH or find a friend with STAR Sports intact.

Formula 1 fans tied to Hathway are set to miss the Bahrain Grand Prix.

“My cable operator had told me that his company would meet Hathway officials on Thursday to bring the channels back. But the meeting apparently didn’t take place,” rued Liverpool fan Shiladitya Banerjee, 23. “I am sick of the cable industry. I will wait a couple of days more before switching to DTH if I don’t get the STAR Sports channels back.”

DTH service providers were unwilling to say if Hathway’s alleged haughtiness had benefited them so far. But industry sources said their marketing executives were already doing the rounds of paras in Kasba, Tollygunge, Baguiati and other areas where Hathway has a large subscriber base.

None of the cable operators Metro spoke to could give a clear picture about when they would be able to provide STAR Sports to subscribers willing to pay individually for them.

There is also still no clarity on exactly how much subscribers would have to pay to get the STAR Sports channels on Hathway.