Prasar Bharati hints it will not bid high for Aussie tour

NEW DELHI: Indian pubcaster Doordarshan, sitting happily on the ringside watching the cricket telecast soap opera unfurl with twists and turns, today hinted that it would not bid high if the rights come in a piecemeal fashion.

Pointing out that the recent developments are still being studied by the organisation, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma today evening told, "I am not going to reveal my plans to the media, but it should suffice that it would not make sense for us to bid high if only few series are offered to us as way of a compromise."

Sarma's observations were based on's feedback to him that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) may hawk the Australia and South Africa domestic series separately.

The plan, the BCCI has in mind, is that it will hive off the next three series separately (Australia in October, South Africa in November and Pakistan in March 2005) and offer fresh tenders for cricket rights four years from May 2005 uptill 2009.

Prasar Bharati, which manages Doordarshan and All India Radio, was the third highest bidder ($ 150 million) for the four-year cricket telecast rights being offered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) till 2008. The No. 1 spot was, of course occupied by Zee Tele with a $ 260 million bid that was further hiked subsequently, followed by ESPN-Star Sports, which was approximately 10 per cent lower than Zee.

According to Sarma, a five-day Test match, irrespective of the fact who is playing India and where, does not warrant a high price to be paid for the telecast rights. "Unlike an one-dayer, a Test is not always watched and followed that passionately. It would be difficult to sell airtime above an average price, which would be a deterrent for us to quote a high price."

As a matter of practice, while a one-day cricket game is telecast on DD's flagship channel, DD National, which has a massive terrestrial reach, Tests are generally aired on the sports channel that does not have the reach of DD National. On an average, most cable operators prefer to keep DD Sports on non-prime band.

What is further comforting for DD is that irrespective of the rights owner, in the event of a national telecast, the feeds are most likely to be shared with the terrestrial and national broadcaster in public interest.

But keeping all these hard financial figures aside, another Prasar Bharati official jokingly pointed out that with the current (dismal) form of Saurav Ganguly's Men in Blue, it is debatable whether anybody would like to watch them play at all. Irrespective of the channel that is telecasting them and whether advertisers would like to ride the cricket bandwagon or not.

Certainly these are points that the BCCI and its chief Jagmohan Dalmiya should ponder over.

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