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MSOs meet to work out common course of action on Star’s decision to offer channels only on RIO

MUMBAI: Star India’s decision to put all its television channels on a la carte basis in cities under digital addressable system (DAS) has forced several multi-system operators (MSOs) to join hands. Their common mission: to evolve a mechanism where they can offer the Star channels individually to cable TV subscribers.

The MSOs met in Mumbai on Monday to work out a common course of action that included de-activating the Star channels in a phase-wise manner so that they could be offered to consumers on a la carte basis as per their choice.

The MSOs also decided to come out with a joint awareness campaign to inform consumers that they had to order and pay for the Star channels individually as the broadcaster had told the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that any new interconnect agreement with any MSO for the DAS-notified areas would only be on the basis of reference interconnect offer (RIO) from 1 October. Star had also stated that it would not enter into any interconnect agreement in the DAS areas with anyone on fixed-fee or on cost-per-subscriber (CPS) basis for a period of one year.

MSOs so far  have been offering the Star channels to local cable operators (LCOs) and cable TV subscribers on bouquets. Under the RIO system, they will have to pay to Star for the individual channels based on their RIO rate and the number of consumers that have subscribed to it.

The meeting was attended by representatives from Hathway Cable & Datacom, DEN Networks, Siti Cable, IndusInd Media & Communications (IMCL) and other independent operators.

“From Tuesday, we will inform our LCOs and subscribers through media and ads that Star India channels will be on RIO. They will have the option of taking whichever channels they want,” a senior executive of a leading MSO who attended the meeting told TelevisionPost.com.

First to be de-activated and offered on RIO to subscribers will be the Star Sports channels, said another executive of an MSO. “We will first put Star Sports on RIO coinciding with the India-West Indies series, which kicks off on 8 October. From 11 October, we will put Star Sports on RIO and after that we will put other channels on RIO in a phased manner after consulting each other.”

According to the MSOs, the logistics for offering the consumers individual Star channels of their choice would be very demanding and take time. “We require time to execute the a la carte options for the Star channels to the consumers. There needs to be consumer awareness that the Star channels are available only on a la carte basis. We will also meet our LCOs on this and ask them to communicate the same to subscribers,” the executive added.

The MSO meeting follows a sequence of legal wranglings between Hathway on one side and Star India and Taj Television (wholly-owned subsidiary of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd) on the other. The case finally concluded a few days back with the TDSAT passing an elaborate order that is set to govern the way business is conducted between the broadcasters and the MSOs, at least in the short term. Earlier, Star had submitted an undertaking before TDSAT that it would do only RIO deals with the MSOs.

Also read:

TDSAT asks TRAI to examine RIOs to ensure level playing field

Demystifying TDSAT’s order in Star-Taj TV vs Hathway case

Broadcasters cannot apply RIO retrospectively: TDSAT