Hathway-Times Network at loggerheads: A no-win situation for all stakeholders
We are barely a month into 2018 and there is already news regarding Hathway Digital Cable TV and Times Network being at loggerheads. Hathway switched off the signals of all the channels of Times Network since January 11, 2018 citing a disagreement between the two parties on honouring an existing agreement.
Hathway Digital Cable TV has alleged that Times Network has refused to honour an existing distribution agreement between them, which is valid till end of March 2018.
Meanwhile, in a bid to find a solution Times Network has blamed Hathway for placing unreasonable demands and arm twisting. As per industry sources, Times Network has acknowledged that its channels have been either displaced, replaced or removed by Hathway. At the same time, the Network has urged its employees who have Hathway connections to raise the issue with the distribution platform and bring it to the notice of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The unsaid rule is that if a subscriber is not getting a certain channel or channels for more than a week, the subscriber can ask for a refund.
Industry sources were of the opinion that Times Network would not lose its advertisers due to this blackout by Hathway due to strong products like Times Now, ET Now, Movies Now, etc. However, at the same time they said that in case the imbroglio is not resolved, then in the long run the network would suffer a 5-10 per cent loss of viewers. Despite this, they affirmed that the network won’t be blackmailed into kowtowing to Hathway’s ways.
Meanwhile, Hathway, too, is not untouched by this entire imbroglio. As sources pointed out, as an MSO, Hathway is a wholesale agent for the broadcasters where it goes and sells the signals to the local cable operators (LCOs). In case certain channels – especially premium channels – are taken off air, the subscribers would demand to know why they are getting to see fewer channels even though they have been paying for all the channels. In the case of Times Network, it involves as many as 12 premium channels. The subscribers could even ask for a discount or move on to another MSO, LCO or DTH operator if they are unable to see their favourite channels. Thus, the loss would be also of the LCO’s.
Adgully spoke to a few cable operators across Mumbai and Pune, who said that they felt that they were needlessly caught in the cross-fire between the MSO and the broadcaster. They admitted, “Due to this blackout we have incurred huge losses as customers are demanding their money back. But we cannot pay back as we have already paid the subscriptions in advance.” According to them, Hathway had also promised HD set top boxes, but they had not been delivered so far due to which several customers have switched to DTH platforms.
A Pune-based cable operator mentioned that even after repeated mails to Hathway there has been no response from their end.