About 40 per cent cable homes in the city could be missing the Messis and Neymars in action at the Fifa World Cup starting June 12 unless they upgrade to a costlier package.
Sony Six, the lone channel that will telecast the football World Cup, has been yanked off the basic monthly pack of Rs 180, the preferred package of around 12 lakh cable TV subscribers in Calcutta.
This was done after IPL7, which was also aired on Sony Six, ended on Sunday.
Multi-system operators (MSOs) DEN, Hathway and KCBPL-GTPL have made this change — putting Sony Six in packages that cost Rs 230 and Rs 280 (premier) a month.
Base package subscribers will have to upgrade their subscription preference to watch the action from Brazil.
MSO Manthan always had Sony Six in their premier pack of Rs 280, while Siti Cable, the biggest MSO in the city, has retained the channel in the Rs 180 bracket.
MSOs buy content from broadcasters and distribute them to cable operators in packages or a la carte.
Using the cable operator’s network, the beam reaches individual homes.
“Our office has been flooded with calls after people couldn’t find Sony Six on their TV. No one wants to take chances with the World Cup,” said Apurba Bhattacharya, general secretary of the Cable Operators’ Sangram Committee.
Bhattacharya feared public outrage if the MSOs fail to put Sony Six back in the base package. He recalled a bloody backlash during the 2002 World Cup. “The cables of a particular MSO snapped during a match between Brazil and England. People in many areas missed the action and vented their anger on us. Many cable operators were beaten up mercilessly but no one questioned the MSO. We don’t want a rerun of that,” he said.
Cable operators will hold a meeting on Wednesday, a day before hosts Brazil kickstart the World Cup at the Maracana, to chalk out a plan to resolve the crisis.
“We have spoken to urban development minister Firhad Hakim, informing him about possible repercussions. He has promised to speak to the MSOs,” said a cable operator.
Insiders said the cable industry has always used big-ticket sports events to meet profit targets and settle scores.
The use of coercive tactics is common during cricket matches involving India. Viewers find an irritating black patch covering a major part of the screen proclaiming that the particular MSO has run up huge dues and the connection will be snapped if payments are not made.
Some broadcasters put a colour band on the screen for “extra effect”.
The trend now is to put a sports channel in a costlier package or offer it as a la carte. Hathway did that in April with the STAR Sports channels when the T20 World Cup and English Premier League matches on.
Subscribers missing Sony Six on their TV have two options: either pay Rs 230 or Rs 280 or take the channel a la carte for a minimum of three months at Rs 105 a month. They will have to fill up a subscription form available with the cable operator for the change.
Cable operators, despite fearing a backlash, have yet to inform the subscribers about the two options. They were banking on Hakim to bail them out.