DD rejects Ten Sports' transmission offer

NEWDELHI: With a public interest petition pending in Kerala, Prasar Bharati has not only rejected Ten Sports offer related to the tri-series in Sri Lanka, but has also cautioned it against "hoarding" terrestrial rights.

DD director-general Navin Kumar told, "It's not an offer at all as such an arrangement would create technical problems."

Pointing out that Prasar Bharati, which controls DD and All India Radio, is awaiting a response from the Dubai-based Ten Sports, Kumar said, "Ideally we would like to have simulcast on DD National channel."

Ten Sports' Indian executives were not immediately available for comment.

In a letter to Ten Sports CEO Chris McDonald DD Kumar has has stated, "Admittedly, Ten Sports does not have a terrestrial network in India. Obtaining terrestrial rights and then not utilising them tantamounts to squatting over or hoarding of such rights, which is clearly not in public interest."

Further, DD has said that the assumption that simulcast would reduce the viewership of Ten Sports is not correct. In fact, the simulcast of matches during the cricket World Cup 2003 shows that there was no reduction in the viewership of the encrypted channel.

"In so far as the India-Pakistan series is concerned, Ten Sports had the benefit of (the) platform of Doordarshan, which has now a reach of 108 million homes. No loss was caused to Ten Sports by the telecast of the matches by Doordarshan. Rather, Ten Sports earned substantial amounts by way of increased advertisement revenue," Kumar has clarified.

After these exhortations, comes the googly. Pointing out that the ICC is ensuring no satellite channel gets the World Cup and Mini World Cup rights on exclusive basis and the rights are always shared with terrestrial broadcasters, Kumar has said, "Therefore, there is no merit in not sharing an event (the tri-series in Sri Lanka), which is of much lesser scale and dimension when compared to Champions Trophy and the World Cup. "

Having bowled the googly, DD has followed it up with a bouncer. "We would like to reiterate that sports and games are not totally commercial products and they promote certain essential values and have certain cultural foundations, which are being assiduously developed over decades by public broadcasters like AIR and Doordarshan.

"Therefore, a completely commercial view of the matter is totally unwarranted. Since you have yourself admitted that sub-licensing is completely at your discretion, we are only requesting you to exercise it keeping in view the public interest and (the) overall interest of the game. I would like to request you to look beyond narrow commercial considerations in the larger interest of the Indian public as well as for the furtherance of the game of cricket and provide signal of the Triangular Series to Doordarshan for live telecast as proposed by us," Kumar has conveyed to McDonald.

The Indian cricket team's tour of Sri Lanka begins month-end. This is the second time round that Ten and DD have locked horns over cricket telecast rights. The first time being in 2004 when India made a historic tour of Pakistan after 14 years.

Meanwhile, a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by two "cricket enthusiasts" in the Kerala high court a few days ago seeks a direction from the court to the private broadcaster to share the cricket telecast with DD for its national channel.

Interestingly, the petitioners, PS Sudheesh and J Dennis, have also exhorted the court to pass an order that would make it mandatory in future for any broadcaster to share its feed with DD for sporting events played outside India, an issue that is being hotly debated in the country presently.

According to media reports, subsequent to the petiton, the Kerala High Court Chief Justice Rajiv Gupta and judge KS Radhakrishnan have served notices on Dubai-based Ten Sports, the Indian government, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Prasar Bharati to reply to the suit by 28 July.

"This tournament is to be shown only on Ten Sports. Just 40 per cent of Kerala TV households have a connection from Asianet (that airs Ten Sports). No other cable operator in Kerala has Ten Sports in their bouquet of channels. My clients do not have (an Asianet) connection and they want it to be shown on Doordarshan," petitioner's counsel VM Krishnakumar has been quoted in the media as saying.

DD's Kumar, while stating that it would be fruitful to go to the court with a solution, said, “We are hopeful that a settlement would be arrived with Ten Sports that would be beneficial to both.”

To a request from DD, Ten has offered to share the highlights and market it as well for the pubcaster, along with providing feed for All India Radio (AIR).

Additionally, to blunt DD’s plea that a large portion of the Indian population still don’t have access to cable TV and would have to go without the tri-series in Lanka, Ten has said it would facilitate live feeds through its own receiver boxes in areas that are fed by 250-odd low power transmitters (LPTs) and don’t have access to cable TV.

The rider being that DD cannot market this feed and will have to carry the ads booked by Ten, which won the TV and sponsorship rights of Sri Lanka for three years effective 1 January, 2004 to 31 December 2006 for a reported sum of $ 51 million.

What has Prasar Bharati demanded? At the moment, nothing short of simulcast on DD National.

According to Kumar, the arrangement could be similar to the Asia Cup (ESPN was the rights holder) and the last cricket World Cup (rights holder Sony Entertainment TV India) where simulcast was agreed upon on a revenue sharing basis in favour of the private broadcasters.

Prasar Bharati has said it will share the ad revenue in the ratio of 20:80 with Ten after recovering an opportunity cost of Rs 10 million a match. A separate account will be maintained (as done for the Indo-Pak series where too Ten was involved) for the ad revenues being generated for the five matches on DD.

The government, which is examining a law that will mandate sharing of feeds of sports events of national importance with pubcaster on a compulsory basis, has formed a group of ministers to go into the issue.

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