Discovery Communications has gone to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), against a decision by Den Networks to discontinue the services of 11 of its channels.
It also issued an advertisement last Sunday that in line with the Standards of Quality Service Regulations of 2012, both customers and cable operators could insist on "obtaining a discount of Rs 111 per subscriber per month", the per-item pricing of the Discovery offering, for not receiving the channel from the multiple system operator.
Den hit back through an advertisement on Wednesday, telling customers to not get distracted by the "misleading advertisement". Without specifying the channels, they say exorbitantly priced channels are now being offered on an a la carte basis (each item priced separately) only. However, channels of better and more compelling content have been offered at no extra cost in the packages of customers. It also names the affordable channels, such as Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo People, Sony BBC Earth, Epic TV and fyi. All of which are in the same infotainment space in which Discovery operates.
A spokesperson of Discovery said they'd gone to the TDSAT but refused to comment on the issue, as it was before that forum. S N Sharma, chief executive of Den, also declined to comment.
Den covers a little over 13 million households, including in Delhi and Mumbai; it is one of the largest cable TV entities. Discovery beams its programmes across 130 million households. Its channels include Discovery, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Kids, Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo. It plans to launch a new Indian channel, Discovery JEET, next year.
Sources say the trouble began when the two disagreed on the terms for renewal of their contract, which ended on March 31. According to sources, the issue came to a head after Den is believed to have asked for a reduction in the fee for showing the channels. For Discovery, adding its new channel, DSports, to the bouquet, this was not acceptable. The channels were discontinued in the first week of July.
The infotainment market is going through a substantial churn, with increasing competition from a whole host of new channels. For instance, Discovery Channel, the flagship one in the group and long been on top of the charts, has dropped to number two, with History TV18 taking the top slot, based on BARC figures for viewership in the week of July 15. The third slot is with National Geographic, followed by Nat Geo Wild. Animal Planet, part of Discovery Communications, is in fifth spot.