The Telegraph
Monday , April 7 , 2014
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STAR blitz in cable row

STAR Sports has launched an ad blitzkrieg to convince sports fans that it was not to blame for its channels going off the air in over three lakh homes serviced by multi-system operator (MSO) Hathway.

Newspaper, TV and radio ads of STAR Sports proclaim that it had not increased the price of the channels as claimed by the MSO even as the channels made a sneaking comeback to some of the homes before the World T20 final in Dhaka on Sunday evening.

The ads aired and published over the past couple of days states that it is incorrect information if the MSO is “telling you that STAR Sports has increased rates”.

The broadcast blitz — especially on STAR Sports channels and FM channels — spells out that its service is available in all other leading cable and DTH connections, stopping short of asking consumers to move out of Hathway.

Some cable operators, under pressure from subscribers, have started putting pirated signal on their network.

The STAR Sports channels were put on the sly at the end of the channel bouquet in localities where these have sneaked back into the set-top boxes after an almost fortnight-long blackout. There was no ticker informing subscribers about the channels.

“It was when I called my operator to know the latest on the STAR Sports channels that I learnt that the channels were back,” Kasba resident S. Mondal said.

The operator denied that the channels were aired illegally, though the impasse between the MSO and STAR Sports continued and not all Hathway subscribers were getting the signal.

Experts said any operator could run pirated signals of a channel using a moderator, a gadget that steals the signal from a set-top box of another MSO or DTH player and route it to its network.

“One of my employees was thrashed by a group of subscribers yesterday. Pressure is mounting on us,” said a Hathway operator in Tollygunge.

Subscribers of Hathway, which accounts for 10 per cent of cable homes, have not been able to watch the STAR Sports channels from April 1, after the MSO removed the channel from its packages. They said STAR Sports had raised prices and customers would have to pay a la carte rates.

Some diehard sports buffs were ready to shell out the a la cart fee (four channels for Rs 108) but even that could not be arranged as the Hathway-STAR Sports tiff turned into a full-scale war.

“Hathway wants each operator to pay them Rs 5,000 upfront before starting the a la carte package. We are against this,” said Apurba Bhattacharya, general secretary of the Cable Operators’ Sangram Committee.

So far, there was no certainty when subscribers would be able to get the channels a la carte.