RCS&RDS, the largest Romanian cable and Internet provider, caused outrage with its decision to cut all Discovery channels on November 29, much to the disappointment of more than 3 million subscribers. The company is accused of having enforced the measure one day before the end date of its binding agreement with Discovery Networks, the latter is now intent on seeking some form of support both from the Romanian and the European authorities.
“One week ago, Discovery Networks warned RCS&RDS subscribers that it was very likely for them to lose access to the six Discovery channels, including Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet,” stated Mark Hollinger, CEO and President of Discovery Networks International, in an open letter to RCS&RDS subscribers. “Unfortunately, our fears have proven true, and RCS&RDS eliminated our channels from its offer on November 29, one day before the expiry of our contract. […] This is happening after almost one year of repeated attempts by Discovery Networks to bring RCS&RDS to the negotiation table,” added Hollinger.
Hollinger’s “extreme disappointment” in this situation, his allegations that RCS&RDS’ position and prerogatives as market leader will eventually leave viewers with “very few options as far as quality productions are concerned” and his statement concerning Discovery’s offer for rate cutdowns so as to accommodate the conditions of the Romanian market sparked a heated exchange of public replies with the RCS&RDS representatives.
“Mark Hollinger’s open letter comes as a huge surprise for us due to the contradiction between the special concern manifested towards viewers’ interests, as expressed in this message, and Discovery Networks International’s position during the negotiations, when the company’s representatives appeared to be mostly concerned with maintaining the level of tariffs and guaranteeing that incomes are as high as possible”, reads an RCS&RDS press release. “[...] we are publicly urging Discovery Networks to create a separate package containing all Discovery programs that interested subscribers can buy at a price set by Discovery Networks themselves,”concluded the RCS&RDS representatives.
The incident came to the attention of the Romanian authorities, as the current legal framework sets an obligation for all cable providers to submit proposed grid changes to the approval of the National Audiovisual Council (CNA). Thus, the CNA, through the voice of President Rasvan Popescu put RCS&RDS in the hot seat, to which the latter responded with a clarification of the legal aspects of the Discovery contract termination.
“The distribution contract concluded between our company and Discovery Networks International expired at the end of November 2012 and could not be extended as the two parties did not manage to reach a mutually convenient solution. […] Please note that prior to this, our company submitted to the CNA a grid change request, but that this request was not discussed within the Council, ” reads a second RCS&RDS statement on the matter. “We cannot help but notice the fact that Mr. Rasvan Popescu is much more willing to apply penalties to certain companies, taking sides in commercial litigation, than to see to the application of legal procedures […],” concluded the RCS&RDS representatives.
This is but one step in the RCS&RDS vs Discovery feud. Earlier this year, the Romanian cable operator took its first offensive move by removing all Discovery programs from the free channel list and requesting that viewers pay a small fee in exchange for access to them.
Ioana Jelea, email@example.com
(photo source: print screen)