India-Pak cricket series: Ten Sports firm on giving DD only daily highlights package

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: At a time when the governments of India and Pakistan are talking peace, a different kind of tussle is going on - over the telecast of cricket matches between the two nations. Specifically for the upcoming tour of Pakistan by the Indian cricket team which is scheduled to kick off in March.

As things stand, Dubai-based Taj Television, which manages Ten Sports channel and holds telecast rights for Pakistan cricket, is willing to offer India's Prasar Bharati (managing Doordarshan and All India Radio) a one-hour daily highlights package. The pubcaster is however, angling for more and that's where the ball is bouncing as of now.

Realising that India-Pakistan cricket matches can turn out to be money-spinners, Doordarshan is unleashing all the tricks in the trade to be also part of the telecast team. This is all despite the fact that initial overtures in this regard have been rejected by Ten Sports, which had signed a telecast deal with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for cricket matches organized under its aegis.

"We have held some rounds of meetings with Ten Sports on being provided a feed of the India-Pakistan cricket matches that would be played in the near future," Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma said in the capital today, during an interaction with journalists.

According to Sarma, though Ten Sports' head of programming Peter Hutton --- slated to meet the Prasar Bharati CEO again this week --- has not agreed to the offers put out by DD, he would "make other efforts" to get the matches.

Hutton, who spoke to over the phone from Dubai, was however quite categorical that the in-principle agreement that had been reached with India's pubcaster was only for DD showing one hour highlights with either a four-hour delay or after 10:30 pm - whichever was later. Hutton termed his meetings with Sarma as positive and said discussions were on for other areas of possible co-operation.

This of course raises questions as to what exactly Sarma was implying when, on being asked what the 'other efforts' might be, he hinted that it could be an issue taken up between the governments of Pakistan and India. "It could also be that we talk to the PCB directly and try to convince them that as a public service broadcaster we too, should be allowed to telecast the cricket matches, maybe on a 30-minute deferred basis," he added.

According to Hutton, the deferred telecast proposal was a non-starter as all the commercial deals that Ten had entered into with its telecast sponsors guaranteed exclusivity of broadcast.

As part of earlier talks, DD had offered Ten Sports a formula that it had employed during the last cricket World Cup wherein Sony Entertainment TV India held the exclusive telecast rights for the India region. The offer envisaged that either Ten Sports allows DD to telecast the cricket matches on a deferred basis ranging between 30 to 60 minutes or use the DD platform, after giving a minimum guarantee of approximately Rs 50 million 

per match, and take a lion's share of the revenue generated from marketing the matches.

DD's contention had been that Ten Sports' viewership base in India is miniscule and by coming also onto the DD platform with the matches, it could make a financial killing, while DD would be satisfied having made some money and lived up to its role of a public service broadcaster.


The issue of India-Pakistan cricket matches may be sizzling in the oven, but DD has decided to give the likes of Sony and Sahara a run for their money for the telecast rights for the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI)-organised cricket in India.

"We would bid again for the rights this year," Sarma said. The BCCI rights would be up for grabs this year and Sony and Sahara have indicated that they too, would like to bag the telecast rights.

For seven one-dayers and four Test matches per year, Prasar Bharati had paid Rs 2,500 million for a period of five years.

Prasar Bharati had bowled a googly to the BCCI too, but after having batted for Indian cricket for so many years, the organization's chief, Jagmohan Dalmia, spotted it early and fended it away safely.

According to an initial proposal, Prasar Bharati had wanted BCCI to give it the telecast rights --- for an increased amount for the next four years again without a bidding process being held. An offer that Dalmia politely refused in a letter to Sarma.

This time round BCCI is promising 10 one-dayers and four Tests per year.

Not giving up, Sarma said, the Prasar Bharati board has requested Dalmia to give it a patient hearing wherein a fervent appeal would be made to the BCCI to allow DD have the telecast rights.


Meanwhile, Sarma said that DD's sibling, All India Radio, would be broadcasting commentary for the tri-nation one day series Down Under that would begin tomorrow. The participating nations are India, Australia and Zimbabwe.

AIR has paid Rs 6 million for the rights and has already booked advertising spots worth approximately Rs 30 million.

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