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Despite public pressure and ongoing negotiations, the YES satellite TV company seems set to ax Star World and the HOT cable TV company to drop BBC Prime.
YES has already announced that it will cut off Star World by Monday and left no place for bargaining. "YES couldn't reach an understanding with Star World channel's representatives," said YES's spokeswoman Libi Zipser. "The channel is not central and has low viewing numbers among YES's subscribers. The YES satellite TV company adds new channels constantly and just recently added two new news channels, France 24 and Al Jazeera international."
According to Zipser, YES plans to add more channels to its subscribers' packages and many resources to promote original productions.
Benson Chao, the corporate affairs and communications manager for Star, said in response: "We are committed to the Israeli market, and it is our sincere hope that our viewers will be able to continue watching their favorite shows on Star World. We would like to stress that we have tried every possible means and will continue to do so to hopefully secure the opportunity for us to serve our viewers." Chao added that Star World will continue to be screened on HOT.
Meanwhile, HOT claimed that its ongoing negotiations with BBC for a lower annual price had reached a dead end.
HOT chief executive officer David Kaminitz said that the company had to drop BBC Prime "in order to bring back the content's costs to a reasonable and moderate proportion."
According to Kaminitz, dropping BBC Prime by January 31 was the unfortunate consequence of the channel administration's stubbornness and refusal to be more flexible, unlike other content providers who, he said, were open for real negotiation.
"Despite the importance of this channel and even though HOT recognizes its good quality, the company cannot agree to the commercial conditions presented by BBC Prime, which refused to identify with the channel's viewers," he said.
"HOT expects its content providers to offer a long-term agreement and assistance in reducing disproportionate costs as per the number of viewers," said Kaminitz, who added that the company plans to compensate its customers with British shows which will be broadcast through the company's many other channels and via Video on Demand (VOD).
According to BBC Prime officials, HOT contacted the channel Wednesday night and said it was about to change the channel's number on the cable box from 30 to 170. BBC Prime threatened to cut the signal from London if HOT went ahead and relocated the channel to a less accessible station number. HOT on Thursday denied any such intention, and said that there had been some misunderstandings.
The BBC said it did not appreciate HOT pressuring the company and a channel official said it would not reduce the channel's yearly cost by 30-40 percent.
"BBC Worldwide could not continue broadcasting BBC Prime were we to agree to this reduced deal, which dramatically affects both the BBC brand and the quality of the channel," said Darren Childs, managing director of BBC Worldwide. "We would be unable to buy and invest in the level of quality programming currently broadcast on the channel. BBC Prime has been paid less for its content than other channel providers. It seems draconian to want to force such a successful channel to become so cheap."
He added that the alternative suggested by HOT, to offer quality British shows via VOD, would not stand. "From February 1, the majority of BBC programs will not be available [via VOD]; this will not be an adequate replacement for viewers of BBC Prime," said Childs.
Marissa Stuart, of the Association of American and Canadian in Israel (AACI), said it had received many complaints, and that people were threatening to change TV service providers "until they realized that both [companies] are cutting channels. The consensus is that there are so many Russian, Spanish and French channels and that there should be high quality English channels too," Stuart said.