New Delhi: Ahead of the start of popular T20 league IPL, Star India is at loggerheads with DTH operators Airtel Digital TV and Dish TV over subscription fee hike, with the broadcaster threatening to disconnect its channels.

Star India, which has a bouquet of nearly 50 channels, in a campaign has asked Airtel Digital TV subscribers to switch to new DTH/operators in order to continue watching its channels. The broadcaster blamed the DTH operator for ‘misleading’ consumers and ‘unilaterally’ increasing the prices of its channels.

In response, Airtel Digital TV said Star TV is indulging in ‘arm twisting’ tactics and is demanding “an unreasonable hike in rates" and it has been forced to take Star’s channels at a high cost. “It is public knowledge that Star TV recently made a massive bid to acquire exclusive rights to a popular sporting event and is now left with no option but to arm-twist and extract sunk cost from DTH/Cable operators and advertisers," Airtel Digital TV said in a statement.

Similarly, Dish TV India chairman and managing director Jawahar Goel told PTI, “Star has been asking for around 20-40 per cent increase in fees for its channels." Moreover, he said, “They are also not disclosing on what channels will the IPL be telecast. It doesn’t make sense for any customer to subscribe ten Star channels to watch IPL."

When contacted, a Star India spokesperson declined to comment saying the company has made its position public through its social media handles. In a post on 23 March on its twitter handle, Star India said, “Attention Airtel Digital TV subscribers! Star has not increased channel tariffs. Airtel Digital TV is misleading you and unilaterally increasing the prices of Star channels. To continue watching high-quality Star entertainment switch to new DTH/Cable operator NOW. #MakeTheSwitch".

Star India had issued public notices that its channels were likely to be disconnected from Airtel Digital TV, Dish TV and Videocon d2H (now merged with Dish) for non-signing of subscription agreement. In case of Airtel Digital TV, the broadcaster also cited non-payment of subscription fees and non-submission of subscriber reports as other reasons for such a step.

Earlier this month the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal had asked operator Bharti Telemedia and Star India to negotiate and settle their dispute that led to discontinuation of Star channels on Airtel Digital.

The DTH operator has, however, insisted that all the standard definition channels of Star would continue to be available to its customers as part of their existing packs. However, the high definition channels of Star would be as part of select packs and “Airtel Digital TV will only charge what Star TV is charging it, not a rupee more".

Airtel Digital TV has around 12.5 million subscribers, while Dish TV along with Videocon d2H, has around 29 million subscribers. Star India in September last year bagged media rights for TV and digital broadcast of the IPL from 2018 to 2022 for a whopping Rs16,347.50 crore. It pipped rival Sony, which had the IPL rights in the previous years. The IPL begins on 7 April and the final will be played on 27 May.

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