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Biz Buzz: Cable TV standoff

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Biz Buzz: Cable TV standoff

/ 12:12 AM April 19, 2017

In this basketball-mad nation, the availability of live televised broadcasts of US National Basketball Association games are reason enough for people to subscribe to cable TV services. In fact, the two biggest cable TV service providers in the country make it a point to advertise NBA games as a crowd drawer in their marketing campaigns.

But if basketball can draw in subscribers, can its absence also push away existing ones?

Well, the existing clients of Lopez family-owned Sky Cable may find out soon. That’s because the long simmering dispute between the country’s largest cable TV service and Solar Entertainment Group of the Tieng family has finally exploded out into the open.

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And the victims are the thousands— maybe millions? —of Filipinos who are crazy about basketball, just as the 2017 NBA season started its crucial post-season games.

At first, many subscribers who decided to stay at home during the Holy Week break last week thought the absence of the NBA Premium channel on Sky Cable was just another service interruption.

But a few days later, a Sky Cable announcement made the problem official: A dispute between the firm and Solar was the cause of the channel outage, along with the other popular cable channels provided by Solar— Basketball TV, Jack TV, Solar Sports and CT.

And if people thought that this dispute was about money, they thought correctly.

Biz Buzz learned that Solar had previously entered into a deal with the NBA in 2010 for the former’s right to broadcast basketball games in various platforms. The contract ended in 2014, a new contract was entered into between Solar, NBA and ABS-CBN. Under the new contract, Solar would continue to broadcast the games over Basketball TV and NBA Premium, which ABS-CBN would broadcast over Channel 2 and ABS-CBN Sports + Action.

And here’s where the problem began. According to Solar, ABS-CBN immediately stopped paying it “carriage fees,” saying that the license fee ABS-CBN paid NBA already included the fees payable to Solar. Uh-oh.

Solar continued to deliver the channels’ content, despite this.

Meanwhile, Solar learned that Sky Cable bundled NBA Premium in a direct-to-home service, which platform was not included in the channel carriage agreements. Solar informed Sky Cable that NBA Premium cannot be offered as part of a subscription plan and demanded that Sky Cable cease such activity.

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Not so, replied Sky Cable.

By this time, things were getting out of hand and Solar demanded P321 million worth of unpaid carriage fees form Sky Cable. ABS-CBN came back with a settlement amount of P80 million.

Still no deal.

By February of this year, Solar wrote ABS-CBN again, this time pointing out that the latter’s liabilities had already ballooned to P659 million… to which the country’s largest television network replied that it was willing to pay P111 million.

Still no deal, obviously.

So last week, things came to a head and Solar pulled the plug on its cable feed to Sky Cable. The result: No NBA games for Sky Cable’s irate subscribers.

All this, of course, comes at a critical time for Sky Cable, with Manny Pangilinan’s Cignal TV nipping at its heels (and offering live NBA games to frustrated subscribers).

The question now is — between Solar and Sky Cable—who will blink first? —DAXIM L. LUCAS

A different kind of runway

Things really move faster when the private sector is involved.

Take the Runway Manila, possibly the country’s fanciest and priciest “overpass” that will link Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Resorts World Manila. Picking up the P1.5-billion tab is Alliance Global Group Inc. (AGI) of tycoon Andrew Tan that also operates Resorts World.

Runway Manila opened yesterday and there are obvious benefits here for anyone who has been stuck in a traffic jam outside Naia 3.

The bridge will be fully air-conditioned and even has “walkalators” for the elderly or disabled as well as for those who feel the added convenience is still too much effort. It’s even a destination unto itself, given that it will have a cafe and a guest check-in counter for the nearby Marriott Hotel Manila.

“With all these projects, AGI has been bringing development and progress to different parts of the country, creating jobs, spurring economic activity and helping improve the lives of our fellow Filipinos. This is our way of contributing to nation-building and helping find solutions to our country’s problems,” Tan said. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: cable TV, National Basketball Association, Runway Manila, Sky Cable, US National Basketball Association
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