Even as Airtel Digital and Star India are trying to scuttle a new TRAI law aimed at unraveling TV channel bundles, the DTH operator has removed all Star channels from its various bundles and packages due to a disagreement over pricing.

As of today, all Star channels, including Star Sports, Star Plus, Asianet, National Geographic, Vijay TV and Star Jalsha, have been removed from the Bharti Airtel’s DTH service and will no longer be available to subscribers without extra effort.

This indicates that Airtel Digital has fallen back on the ‘reference interconnect offer’ or RIO for arriving at the price of Star channels.

The RIO or reference interconnect offer is a public tariff card from the channel operator to all cable and DTH companies.

Typically, companies like Airtel Telemedia are also offered special concessions on top of the RIO offer due to their size.

RIO pricing is on a ‘per subscriber’ basis, while negotiated deals are usually on a flat basis, irrespective of how many users on the DTH or cable platform subscribe to the channel.

Airtel Digital and Star India said they were unable to arrive at a price that was acceptable to both.

The development comes three weeks after Star India issued a public notice saying that Airtel Digital is not giving it details of subscriptions and was not paying subscription fees.

Star India, which was bought by Walt Disney from Rupert Murdoch in three months ago, is India’s largest broadcaster and has a portfolio of nearly 70 channels including the Disney line-up, and nearly all of these are carried by almost all the DTH and major cable networks in India.

As a result of going RIO, Airtel Digital users have to pay for each Star channel individually, in keeping with the RIO rate. The DTH operator said the move was ‘temporary’.

Star charges Rs 35 per subscriber per month for all HD sports channels under RIO and Rs 25 for most of the other HD channels.

In keeping with this, Airtel Digital has decided to charge Rs 50 per month for HD sports channels and Rs 35 per month for non-sports HD channels.

Star prices its non-HD channels at anywhere from 45 paise per month per subscriber for Channel V to Rs 9.21 per month for Star Bharat. Non HD versions of sports channels are priced at Rs 15 per month. As such, Airtel Digital will charge Rs 10 per month for non-sports standard definition channels and Rs 20 for sports channels.

To prevent a consumer blowback, Airtel said it will not charge consumers for subscribing to 22 of the most popular of Star’s standard definition channels — including Star Plus, Star Movies, Star Sports, Star Bharat and Star Gold — for a period of one month.

This offer is available only to those subscribers who lost access to these channels due to the shift to RIO, it added.

These 22 channels account for 66 percent of all the standard definition channels of Star India that were present on Airtel’s DTH platform before the dispute.

However, the remaining 11 channels will be charged from day 1, if activated by subscribers.

Similarly, the ‘one month free’ offer will not apply to the 23 HD channels from Star that are present on the Airtel platform.

However, said the DTH operator, it will add 5 new HD channels, including Living Foods, JEET HD, &Prive HD and DSports HD, to its HD consumers who are losing access to Star’s channels.

If these five channels are not enough to compensate for the number of HD channels lost, Airtel will make a proportionate refund to the consumer’s account for the loss, it added.

In other words, if a consumer was subscribed to 60 HD channels for Rs 225 per month, and loses access to 15 channels due to the shift, Airtel will credit Rs 56.25 back to the consumer, which can be used to buy Star’s HD channels individually.

Consumers can activate the channels individually by calling the DTH providers customer care or by using this page to find the relevant missed call number. – Ultra News