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Discovery channels face axe from StarHub over payment row

Discovery has declared war on StarHub after accusing the pay-TV network of refusing to pay “fair value” for its channels.

The American broadcast giant, which owns the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Eurosport, said the  Singaporean telco is preparing to pull all its content on June 30 owing to a disagreement over carriage fees.

In a heavily-worded statement issued today, Discovery said it had asked StarHub to “pay the equivalent of a cup of coffee per customer per month”, but that negotiations between the two parties had fallen flat.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Discovery’s general manager for South East Asia Shavkat Berdiev said: “We have been trying come to an agreement for a while now. However, unfortunately the fees they are proposing for what we have are very different and are something we cannot agree to.”

Berdiev was unable to reveal how much the carriage fees for the channel portfolio or what the network’s ratings currently stand at in Singapore.

However, he added that the bulk of Discovery’s revenue in the market came from the carriage fees rather than advertising revenue, which he described as being “low” on payTV in Singapore.

The Discovery statement in full said:

“For more than 20 years, Discovery’s brands have informed and entertained Singapore viewers with the highest quality content about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. In Discovery’s recent negotiations with StarHub, we have unfortunately reached an impasse as StarHub is not prepared to pay fair value and have announced their decision to cease transmission of all 11 Discovery channels on their platform. All we are asking for is the equivalent of a cup of coffee per customer per month. We have a responsibility to now take the extraordinary step of informing our viewers that they may lose all the Discovery channels they are paying for on StarHub.

“After June 30, StarHub subscribers will no longer be able to watch Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Science, Discovery Asia, Eurosport and Setanta on both StarHub TV and streaming service StarHub Go, should a resolution not be met.

“Discovery’s expanded lifestyle offering – with the recent addition of HGTV, Asian Food Channel, Food Network, and Travel Channel to our portfolio – will also no longer be available on StarHub platforms after August 31. Discovery currently makes up a crucial part of the StarHub English PayTV space and dominates Lifestyle with its channels comprising a significant portion of the offering.”

In a thinly-veiled dig, Discovery made a point of noting that a number of its channels would still be available on StarHub’s rival Singtel TV.

In Singapore, Discovery claimed its channels reached more than 1.3 million viewers in 2017 and had experienced a 10 per cent rise in ratings despite acknowledging “a downward trend in overall English pay TV”.

Currently, the network’ counts Fast ‘N’ Loud, Running Wild With Bear Grylls and Cooking For Love among its most popular shows.

StarHub has since responded to Discovery’s claims with their own statement: “We are in renewal negotiations with Discovery and we are doing everything possible to arrive at a deal which would allow Discovery and StarHub to continue our partnership while offering our customers the same content at a reasonable pric”Our customers are our top priority and we are working hard to ensure that they can enjoy an uninterrupted viewing experience. Concurrently, we are acquiring fresh replacement content in the event that negotiations prove unsuccessful.

‘If we are unable to agree on a renewal, the seven Discovery Networks channels will cease transmission on 30 June 2018 and we will announce the launch of several new channels to ensure our customers will continue to enjoy access to a good range of education and lifestyle channels. This will be carried out in the coming weeks. We assure customers that we remain committed to providing them with a comprehensive range of quality content across genres.

“We value all our customers and we appreciate their business. While we continue to negotiate with Discovery, we would like to show our appreciation to all our customers by offering them a free preview of 28 channels over five genres from 11 June to 15 July 2018 to thank them for their support.

“We look forward to sharing more details on this matter in due course. Once again, we thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”

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