Discovery Threatens Blackout in Singapore Cable Spat

Multinational television group, Discovery has announced that 11 of its channels will disappear from StarHub, one of Singapore’s two principal cable network operators. The dispute emerges from recent carriage renewal talks and hinges on a disagreement over fees.

StarHub is not prepared to pay fair value and have announced their decision to cease transmission of all 11 Discovery channels on their platform,” Discovery said. Seven Discovery channels will no longer be available on StarHub after June 30. Four channels from the legacy Scripps contract will cease after August 31.

Channels affected include: Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Science, Discovery Asia, Eurosport and Setanta, HGTV, Asian Food Channel, Food Network, and Travel Channel.

“All we are asking for is the equivalent of a cup of coffee per customer per month,” Discovery said in a letter circulated on Wednesday. It also urged viewers to voice their displeasure to StarHub’s customer relations staff.

Regional TV trade publication Content Asia speculated that Discovery is looking for $8 million a year, while StarHub is offering $4 million. That disparity appears to reflect the crunch between a large legacy channels bundle and the city-state’s shrinking pay-TV market. Cord-cutting and, despite Singapore’s reputation as a law-abiding country, high levels of piracy have taken their toll.

StarHub hit back quickly, first contradicting Discovery’s version of events, then getting in some retaliatory threats of its own. “We are in renewal negotiations with Discovery and we are doing everything possible to arrive at a deal,” StarHub said in its statement. “Concurrently, we are acquiring fresh replacement content in the event that negotiations prove unsuccessful. If we are unable to agree on a renewal, … 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.”

StarHub also said it will be offering its viewers a month of free access to 28 other channels, many of which are in the same education, wildlife and lifestyle bracket as Discovery’s channel roster. They include BBC Earth, BBC Lifestyle, Disney Channel, Love Nature, MTV Asia, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian Channel and Sony Channel.

Discovery’s Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Science, Discovery Asia, Eve, DMAX, and Eurosport remain available on Singtel, StarHub’s competitor.

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