Bulk of ad time for Indo-Pak series already sold: Sarma

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: Cocking a snook at the BCCI's assertion that it was for the Indian cricket board to decide who would manage air time sales and marketing for the upcoming India-Pakistan cricketing clash, national broadcaster Doordarshan has gone ahead and booked the bulk of advertising time for the blockbuster series.

Speaking to late this evening, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma said, "The empowering committee of Prasar Bharati met today to review the cricket situation and will do so again tomorrow. Sarma confirmed that Doordarshan has "already sold a major part of its air time inventory to advertisers". Said Sarma, "We have conveyed to BCCI that our understanding of the Madras High Court order is that we can sell air time on our terrestrial network."

Sarma explained that this interpretation was based on the fact that the Supreme Court through its interim order delivered last October had allowed Doordarshan to do the marketing for the Australia and South Africa series.


Ironically Sarma's comments came just a few hours after the BCCI working committee, which met in the capital today to decide on various subjects, had stated that it did not accept Prasar Bharati’s interpretation of the Madras High Court order.

“It was decided that the president (of) BCCI be authorised to discuss the matter further with Prasar Bharati with the assistance of the Board’s lawyer,” a statement from the BCCI had said.

A statement from the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) this afternoon said that after evaluating offers received for TV productions, it was unanimously decided to grant it to TWI, which had earlier handled such production work from 1993 to 1999.

Another area where a "climbdown" appears to have been forced on the board is on the issue of cable and satellite rights for the Indian territory. After earlier indicating (without publicly coming out and stating it) that domestic satellite rights were on offer, the statement issued by the board this afternoon was ambivalent on that point.

All the the BCCI statement said was, laying rest to speculation in the media, "The president (of) BCCI was authorised to decide upon the satellite overseas rights of the series on the basis of the received offers."

Since the BCCI statement was mum on domestic satellite rights, what it appears to indicate is that the telecast rights for the Indian territory are NOT being split into terrestrial and satellite. If that is the case, the ONLY TELECAST rights that remain to be hawked are the overseas satellite rights. This certainly flies in the face of what BCCI officials have been telling and Sony Entertainment Television India's bid for the satellite rights for the Indian territory.

According to industry sources, however, what could have brought about this "change of stance" was that Zee telefilms (which along with ESPN Star Sports is barred from participating in any deals for the upcoming series) had sent the BCCI a legal notice to the effect that if it goes ahead and hawks the Indian satellite rights to any broadcaster other than the national broadcaster it would move the Supreme Court.



As things stand currently, even as Trans World International has been granted the television production duties for the upcoming India-Pakistan cricket series for a fee of $1.5 million, the attention now is on who will get the international telecast rights.

A BCCI official tells indiantelevision that the board expects the overseas rights would fetch between Rs 1 billion to Rs 1.2 billion. How it hopes to realise that kind of revenues remains a mystery though if one considers that the international rights for the two fixtures held last October-November involving Australia and South Africa had gone to Sony for Rs 300 million. As regards the present blockbuster series, Sony has stated it was willing to bid $ 10 million (Rs 450 million) compared to Nimbus Sports' valuation of the property at Rs 352 million.

The international rights look like being the only area where the "rules of engagement" will follow the normal processes involved in the sports telecast rights tenders. And the frontrunner for these rights appear to be Sony at the moment.

But the million dollar question is really whether the pubcaster, which has publicly declared that it would have to pay nothing to the Indian cricket board for the telecast of matches, will be able to go through with its plan or a last-minute legal challenge can still be thrown up on the grounds of irreparable financial losses to the BCCI.

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