Viewers Upset As Tata Sky Seeks ‘Missed Call’ for Sony Channels
Tata Sky has removed 22 channels of Sony Pictures Networks in India.
Tata Sky has removed 22 channels of Sony Pictures Networks in India.(Photo: The Quint)

Viewers Upset As Tata Sky Seeks ‘Missed Call’ for Sony Channels

So I turned on the TV last night (running on Tata Sky) to catch the live Champions League game (football) on Ten1 HD and to my surprise all I could see is a blank screen belatedly followed by a message reading “Give a missed call to 888******* to view the channel”.

Though, there was a message that stated I would not be charged anything extra to view the channel, I would still have to wait till my “missed call” request is processed.

Next next morning I learned that Tata Sky had decided to remove 22 channels out of the total 32 belonging to Sony Pictures Network India (SPN) from its service. This included popular channels like Ten1 HD, Ten2 HD and it didn’t even spare news channels like Aaj Tak and India Today TV.

Why Has Tata Sky Removed Sony Channels?

The primary reason cited for the dispute has been revenue sharing. While Sony was insisting on certain payments, Tata Sky wasn’t ready to oblige because of which it decided to take down certain channels from the subscription.

According to a statement released by SPN, Sony said that it was “unfortunate that Tata Sky has unilaterally chosen to drop 22 SPN channels from its subscription”.

What’s bemusing is that Tata Sky has taken this step even though SPN hasn’t increased the rates of its channels!

Rest assured that 10 of the SPN channels are still available under TRAI’s mandate (Telecom Regulations Authority of India) and can be viewed by giving a “missed call” to the numbers provided by Tata Sky.

According to Tata Sky, subscribers can view the unavailable channels, after they call a specified number, but many have taken to Twitter posting their grievances that the procedure doesn’t seem to work.

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“Not in Consumer Interest” Says SPN

According to a Sony spokesperson, Tata Sky’s subscriber base has risen exponentially over the years ever since its association with SPN. Since then Tata Sky has gained considerable revenue as a result of the increase in subscribers. Currently, it stands at almost 16 million, which three years ago was around 10 million.

Also, when the deal was struck between Sony and Tata Sky, SPN had a bouquet of 13 channels that it was providing, which has now risen to 32 in total. Since then, there hasn’t been a proportionate rise in the value of the deal as expected, according to SPN. “This move is not in consumer interest”, the spokesperson added.

SPN’s three-year distribution deal with Tata Sky had expired on July 31. Since then the two parties had been trying to negotiate a deal, which has been stalled as of now.

While Sony has not increased the rates of its channels, the company believes that it is unethical that Tata Sky is not willing to share profits in a proportionate manner.

SPN also believes that it is an unfair practice to take “important” channels off air without informing the customer – most of whom have subscribed to the services’ annual package. The company feels it’s criminal to make customers give “missed calls” for the channels they want to watch.

Tata Sky’s Point of View

Tata Sky on the other hand has said that it wasn’t willing to accept Sony’s demands because it would then have to increase channel prices and that would mean an increase in subscription prices for the customer.

Harit Nagpal, MD, Tata Sky, said that commercial negotiations with SPN “broke down” as what they were seeking would have “forced” the DTH operator to raise 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.”

There are certain channels like SET, Sony SAB, Sony Six, Sony Ten, Sony Pix and Aaj Tak, a total of 10 channels, which the subscriber can still view at no extra cost. However, the customer will have to give a “missed call” to a specified number.

No extra cost? People have already paid for there channels! Why would there even be any “extra cost”?

This is not the end of this issue as it is expected that certain channels of the Network18 group might also be taken off Tata Sky due to the same issue. Clearly, more inconvenience headed the subscribers’ way.

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