ESS gives counter offer to DD on programming

NEW DELHI: The ESPN-Star Sports-Doordarshan cricket case took another twist today with ESPN Software country head, Manu Sawhney, reported to have met up with Prasar Bharati chief executive, KS Sarma, around noon to iron out the areas on concern.

According to Prasar Bharati sources, Sawhney is understood to have made a counter offer to DD: that the national broadcaster produces its own pre and post match programmes and also allows ESPN-Star Sports to do another 30-minute programme on the DD platform.

When contacted ESPN India around 1:15 pm, the official spokesperson declined any comment.

What may tilt the balance in favour of ESS is the fact that the person in DD, a senior sports programming producer, who had assured the top brass of Prasar Bharati that DD has the capability of doing pre and post match programming in-house, has gone on leave on a personal and urgent family emergency.

Another area of concern for ESS is the telecast fee that DD is demanding from the former for a half an hour slot that is more than the normal telecast fee, according to Prasar Bharati sources. DD has also insisted that ESS should not promote its logos or the channels on the DD platform.

DD is yet to take a final decision on the matter whether it would have ESS on its platform or produce the pre and post match programmes in-house or do both. That is, allow ESS to buy time slots on DD for pre and post match programmes and also do something in-house.

"A final decision, based on the observation of director-general of DD, SY Quraishi, would be taken by evening," a source close to the cricket deal making told sometime back.

In another development, DD also had a meeting with its marketing agents for the World Cup cricket, Nimbus Communications, recently and discussed the ESS proposal, amongst other issues.

According to information available, Nimbus is to give DD a no-objection certificate on the ESS proposal to buy time on DD platform to produce cricket-related programmes. Nimbus is understood to have said that ESS can produce programmes on DD provided the production is not done from the actual locations in South Africa as it may result in revenue loss for Nimbus.

The NoC is still awaited from Nimbus as DD wants it before taking a stand on ESS proposal as the latter does not want to get involved in any arbitration matter over this issue.

When contacted, Nimbus CMD Harish Thawani said he was not at liberty to discuss detailed clauses but said that the intimation given to DD was that they were free to pick anybody to do programming for them. Thawani, however, stressed that if ESS were assigned the task then DD has to ensure that no ESPN Star Sports branding appeared anywhere on the show. This was to protect the interests of Sony Entertainment (which has the C&S telecast rights), he clarified.

Last week, while addressing a press conference, Sarma had said that DD would decide by Monday whether it would go to bed with ESS or produce cricket-related programmes in-house.

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