A war of words has broken out between Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) India and Tata Sky, after the former suddenly removed several of its top channels. Yesterday, SPN issued a strong statement against the direct-to-home operator.
"SPN channels are leaders in their genres and the network is one of the most popular in the country," a Sony spokesperson said. "By unilaterally dropping the channels, Tata Sky is depriving its viewers of the opportunity to watch world-class entertainment and live sporting action. Further, by compelling existing subscribers to give separate "missed" calls even to continue watching the SPN channels they have already paid for, Tata Sky is not acting in the consumer interest."
On October 1, Tata Sky removed 32 Sony channels, including Sony Entertainment Television, SAB, Max, AXN, and Sony Pix, along with three channels of India Today Network, like Aaj Tak and India Today TV, over pricing issues. SPN's three-year distribution deal with Tata Sky expired two months ago but the renegotiations had hit a deadlock.
The DTH player's subscriber base had reportedly mushroomed around 60% in the past three years so SPN had been seeking a higher share of revenue. But Tata Sky did not agree to it.
"Commercial negotiations with the broadcasters [SPN and India Today Network] broke down as what they were seeking would have forced us to hike our prices. Hence, we have had to drop a few channels while keeping the popular ones on. While doing so, we are paying Sony much more for the 11 channels retained on the A la Carte rate, versus the contracted rate for three times these channels," said Harit Nagpal, CEO and MD of Tata Sky. "We request our subscribers to bear with us, as we are doing this in their best interest."
However, the move significantly inconvenienced the DTH player's subscribers, who took to Twitter and Facebook to vent their anger and demand that the decision be reversed immediately. Five million out of the 16 million are HD subscribers, a number that is steadily growing.
Tata Sky had asked existing subscribers to give separate missed calls to be able to continue watching 10 Sony channels, including SET, Sony SAB, Sony Six, Sony Ten and Sony Pix HD, in addition to Aaj Tak at "no extra cost". But many subscribers complained about difficulties in accessing the missed call services and customer care. Moreover, subscribers who had already shelled out yearly and monthly subscription fees questioned Tata Sky's sudden move to drop the channels.Incidentally, Sony has denied raising rates of channels, adding that its channels were available under the TRAI-mandated Reference Interconnect Offer.