12 Dec 2017
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Hathway’s slugfest with distributors in Delhi over commission

NEW DELHI: The bosses at Hathway Cable & Datacom spent the last few weeks firefighting in some or other corner of the country. Hardly had the dust settled on the Bengaluru imbroglio when the multi-system operator (MSO) found itself in another tricky situation. This time the battleground was Delhi.

Most of the MSO’s distributors forged unity and blacked out a large part of Hathway’s network in Delhi, sending the company’s management into a tizzy. Their grouse: Hathway management was not honouring to pay commission fee and share carriage fee ever since digital addressable system (DAS) rolled out in the city. A disgruntled distributor said almost 80 to 85 per cent of Hathway’s network in Delhi was switched off by them.

Hathway has over 6.5 lakh set-top boxes (STBs) deployed in Delhi to service its cable TV subscribers. It also has around 40,000 direct points, which was not affected by theprotest.

“Hathway had promised us that they will share 40 per cent of carriage income with us over and above the 15 per cent commission that they had promised to pay us. However, we have not been paid anything for the last 14 months. Hathway officials told us that the company has burnt so much cash in implementing digitisation that they wouldn’t be able to pay commissions now,” said another Hathway distributor on condition of anonymity.

He added that the blackout could have been avoided had Hathway been more accommodative. “Officials at Hathway could have sat around the table with us and arrived at a settlement. However, they failed to communicate with us because of which the situation spiralled out of control leading to the blackout,” the distributor said.

However, Hathway Cable & Datacom MD and CEO Jagdish Kumar asserted that only 25–30 per cent of its network was switched off. He also rejected the distributors’ charge by alleging that they have not kept their commitment of paying back to the MSO from what they collected on the ground.

“It is a couple of distributors who acted funny. We downgraded the services of only those who paid us less than Rs 50 per subscriber a month. We have to collect money from the ground. Otherwise, how will we pay to the broadcasters? We are in dialogue with our distributors to sort out the issue,” Kumar said.

The blackout spilled into the third day but no swapping of set-top boxes (STBs) happened, Then the distributors and Hathway officials agreed to meet on Monday to try and find a middle ground.

One clear change has emerged from this situation. The two top MSOs – Hathway and DEN – have united to speed up the process of digitisation.