MSM-Hathway Clash, Local Cable Operators Chip in
An ongoing threat to misbalance Hathway’s broadband distribution network, thereby, marking a protest against the move.
The continuance of tussle involving broadcaster Multi Screen Media (MSM) and multi-system operator (MSO) Hathway has unsettled the nerves of the local cable providers in Mumbai. The cable operators have received numerous complaints regarding the unavailability of MSM channels (like Sony Entertainment Television, Sony Max, Sony Six, etc), and they collectively approached Hathway seeking the solution to the situation. In order to ensure that the complaints are taken seriously some of the operators have even warned to interrupt the distribution of Hathway’s broadband network.
The company, however, justified its right to change the packaging of channels on its platform according to the requirements of the business.“Broadband and cable are two separate businesses with a different set of dynamics and we have strong systems to deal with the business requirements” said a spokesperson for Hathway. He also added that “We have not put the MSM channels on RIO since we have an existing agreement in DAS 1 (Mumbai) for the next 2 months. We have changed the packaging of the MSM channels which is well within our rights and as per regulation”.
Ten days back Hathway pushed all the MSM channels to a la carte basis, on the contrary, to provide them as a base pack to the general consumers of Mumbai. It is on the 31st day of October that MSO’s distribution will come to an end. MSM has also moved the Telecom Disputes and Settlement Apellate (TDSAT) in regard to the shift particularly as the decision to shift to a la carte basis was taken unilaterally despite the existing contract according to the company’s claims.
Hathway has been asked to pay its due (an amount of Rs 15 crore) by the tribunal, though it has allowed it to change the packaging. This decision unfortunately did not go well with the cable operators as they had very little time little or no time to inform the consumers about the shift. Adding further to the confusion, few of Hathway’s joint venture partners chose to keep the channels in the original base pack. The situation now is that in the south and central Mumbai, the channels are available on a la carte basis, while on the other hand, in areas like those between Vile Parle and Borivali suburbs of Mumbai, the channels are available as before.
“There is a lot of confusion among the consumers and we have been getting complaints. Business is being affected as people have paid for the channels in the base pack and now are being asked to pay for them separately. For the cable operator, if the consumer is not satisfied and wants to shift to DTH, the loss is great and almost never repairable” commented a cable operator who runs his business in Delhi.
The MSM channels shift to a la carte model was a decision totally based on business needs as per the company Hathway. Thus, clarifying that the company is not in any sort of dialogue with the broadcaster any longer. It also assured that things will be normal very soon. Carrying on with the clarification, it said that the falling rates of SET and MSM channels forced them to make a decision where they had to shift the network channels to ala-carte.
“It’s rather sad to see that even if the distribution platform wants to do fair trade by being customer-centric and logical, the authoritarian approach of content providers by demanding growth despite weak content and consistent drop in ratings push us to operate in parameters not set by us but the brunt of being the first face to the customer is always paid by us. Product and content have to be strong to demand premium or growth, which Multi Screen Media do not possess”, a spokesperson from the Hathway explained.