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Spat between MSM Media Distribution and Hathway deteriorates amid negotiations

MUMBAI: A spat between Multi Screen Media’s distribution arm MSM Media Distribution (MSMMD) and MSO Hathway Cable & Datacom deteriorated into a public row on Wednesday as both the companies failed to settle on carriage and subscription fees.

MSMMD issued a public notice in the leading dailies seeking the attention of Hathway subscribers, distributors and local cable operators (LCOs). It stated in the notice that it has disconnected the signals of channels of MSM and TV Today Network on the Hathway platform in several areas of the country on account of “non-payment of outstanding subscription dues and non-renewal of agreement”.

The distribution deal between MSMMD and Hathway for the cities in Phase II of digital addressable system (DAS) had expired on 31 March 2015. MSMMD, which distributes 16 channels from the MSM bouquet and three channels from TV Today Network, claims that the MSO has not paid its dues since last seven months.MSM-vs-hathway-cover

While MSMMD has filed a recovery petition in the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against Hathway, it has also switched off its signals to the MSO in cities like Agra, Allahabad, Jaipur, Barwaha, Bhopal, Dewas, Gwalior, Indore, Jabalpur, Mhow Cant., Nagda, Neemuch, Pithampur, Aurangabad, Dombiwali, Mira Road, Nashik, Pune, Thane, Banamalipur, Barabadar, Basudebpur, Biribati, Dorada, Dumukipur, Jagadalpur, Jagatsinghapur, Kakatpur, Kasipur, Nalco, Nimapada, Polasara, Tihidi, Asansol, Balurghat, Old Malda, Rajarhat and Siliguri earlier this month.

MSMMD has warned against the piracy of signals. “Post disconnection, Hathway, or any of its linked MSOs/ cable operators have no right to receive or retransmit the signals of MSM and TV Today Network in the areas where they have been disconnected,” MSMMD said in its notice.

The retransmission of the signals of the MSM and TV Today Network channels in these areas shall be “illegal” and amount to “piracy and theft” of the signals, the notice further read. MSMMD threatened strict legal action against any such activity.

Reacting to the notice strongly, Hathway issued a statement in the afternoon saying that in DAS Phase II markets, it has decided not to renew its contract with MSM due to “the unappealing content of its channels and continued decline and inconsistency in ratings”.

In DAS Phase I markets, Hathway said it will offer MSM channels on a la carte basis to the consumers and not as part of any of the packages till the expiry of the contract. For Phase I, the distribution contract expires on 31 October 2015.

A company spokesperson said in a statement, “Dripping ratings and average content cannot be a base for a broadcaster to take distribution platforms for a ride by demanding hefty growth year on year. In fact, it requires major correction in the subscription fees that the broadcaster charges. The concern with Sony Entertainment Television, the flagship channel of Multi Screen Media (MSM), has been witnessed over the last year wherein their content lacks appeal and demand as compared to other leading networks and does not deserve a growth, which was raised by us to the broadcaster. All the other channels in the MSM bouquet are also irrelevant and don’t offer any compelling content.”

Earlier, MSMMD had filed two separate recovery petitions in the TDSAT. While one was for Phase I cities, the other was for Phase II and the analogue cable TV markets.

In the Phase I case, Hathway’s counsel has assured MSMMD in TDSAT that the MSO will follow the terms and conditions of the MoU (memorandum of understanding) signed between the two parties and will make payment of Rs 14.56 crore (Rs 146 million) in three equal installments. The amount will be payable on 31 August, 30 September and 31 October of 2015.

MSMMD EVP – sales and marketing Makarand Palekar reiterated that Hathway has not paid dues of around Rs 45 crore (Rs 450 million) in DAS Phase II and the analogue cable TV markets. “Till they pay the dues, they cannot take the channels on RIO (reference interconnect offer). So the best they can do now is say that they don’t want our channels. But you cannot afford not to have the MSM channels in a competitive market,” he said.

While Hathway and MSMMD seem be on a warpath, negotiations have not halted.

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