The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pay more, see less on cable
- Rate hike scurry as stand-off persists

Your cable bill is about to grow fatter, but assurances on the ground of trouble-free beam are as wafer-thin as ever.

Come next month, be prepared to pay more for your slice of the small screen, and still get less (read: not catching Sachin Tendulkar score a double century, seeing your favourite soap disappearing from your TV set').

On Wednesday, Zee-Turner ' which distributes channels from Zee Telefilms and Turner International, including Zee Television, Zee Cinema, Cartoon Network and CNN ' announced a price hike of its bouquet by seven per cent, with effect from January 2005.

Zee-Turner is the first to make a formal statement after Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) recently allowed a seven per cent increase in cable tariff as 'inflation adjustment' on the ceiling it had imposed earlier.

The existing bouquet of 20 Zee-Turner channels will now be priced at Rs 58.85, up from Rs 55. 'We had been looking at revising our existing bouquet rate for a long time, and Trai's recent amendment gave us that opportunity,' said Siddharth Jain, CEO, Zee-Turner.

The company has also formed a second bouquet of new (and niche) channels, comprising POGO, HBO, VH1, Zee Business News and TV18 Group's yet-to-be-named new Hindi business channel, priced at Rs 40. 'We had to form another bouquet, since Trai had mandated that new channels cannot be made a part of existing bouquets,' Jain added.

A price hike is on the cards for other bouquets, too. STAR, which has its main bunch priced at Rs 30, will also see a seven per cent rise, while its second platter ' comprising History Channel, Hungama, STAR One and the two Disney channels to be added later this week ' is likely to be priced at Rs 28.

The only exception is SET Discovery, which distributes Sony, Discovery and other third-party channels like MTV. The price of its main bouquet of five channels will go down to Rs 53, since HBO will be moving out, while that of its second, with MTV, Nick, Animax and Discovery Travel & Living, will remain unchanged at Rs 12.

'We are also examining whether to raise our bouquet price of Rs 39.70,' said R.C Venkateish, MD, ESPN Software India.

ESPN STAR Sports, of course, is engaged in a game of attrition with local multi-system operators (MSOs), denying over 50 per cent cable homes the right to see their sports stars in action.

With even a knee-jerk government intervention failing to break the deadlock and no solutions in sight, the consumer continues to be held to ransom.

On Wednesday, the sports-beam drama shifted to Kerala High Court, with a public interest litigation filed against the switch-off on Asianet in Kochi coming up for hearing.

The court asked whether ESPN STAR Sports could share its beam for the India-Bangladesh series with Doordarshan (DD). On Thursday, DD's counsel is likely to quote a figure for telecast rights.

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