Television

Jawahar Goel raises alarm of emerging Star cricket monopoly (updated)

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MUMBAI: Jawahar Goel loves stirring up a hornets' nest. And this is him at his inimitable best. The TV industry old timer and chairman & MD of India’s largest satellite TV distribution platform Dish TV, Goel has sent out a letter to the ministry of information & broadcasting, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Competition Commission of India and the Board of  Control for Cricket in India in which he has warned all of them of Star India’s emerging sports telecast monopoly in India in case it manages to acquire the rights to India’s hottest cricketing property the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the next five years.

Goel's letter has come at a time when bidding for the IPL is ending. And bids will be opened to decide who will be delivering the tournament to Indian viewers over the next five years. For Star India, it is important that it gets the rights as it has been investing in sport very heavily over the past decade under the leadership of its India chairman Uday Shankar. 

Goel or Jawaharji (as he is known in the industry) writes in the letter  that "Star also has the Global Media Rights for Asia Cup (Asia Cup, Women's Asia Cup, Emerging Asia Cup and U19 Asia Cup) including TV, audio, internet and mobile rights for all territories globally for the period from 2016 to 2023, the Global broadcast rights for all ICC Events which includes exclusive live and highlights rights across all platforms for ICCmajor events - the ICC Cricket World Cup and its qualifiers, the ICCWomen's World Cup, the ICCWorld Twenty20 and its qualifiers, the ICC Champions Trophy and the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup for the period from 2015-2023. In addition to the above, Star also has the rights for all the bilateral series of the Cricket Broads of Australia, England and Bangladesh and today the situation is such that except for Indian Premier League (IPL), Star has the rights for all the cricketing events to be shown in India for the next 6-7 years."

He further writes: "With this objective in view and in order to further strengthen its monopolistic position in the field of media distribution rights, the Star has initiated various measures which would have far reaching ramifications and shall have adverse impact on every stakeholder in the broadcasting industry, starting from the distributors of the TV channels like the DTH operators and ultimately the end consumers. The history of the media industry is witness to the fact that all the actions initiated by Star till date have always been to economically concentrate the power through acquisition of Cricket Broadcast Rights and thereby create a monopoly in the market to gain huge commercial advantage at the expense of the Consumers and the Distribution Industry. Since this is a very critical issue, it requires immediate attention of BCCI."

He adds:  "In order to serve its long term objective of charging the exorbitant price for its sports channels containing cricketing content, the Star has challenged the authority/jurisdiction of TRAI itself to fix the price of TV channels and the matter is pending before the Hon'ble High Court of Judicature at Madras."

In the letter he further alleges that DTH provider Tata Sky has also gone to court against TRAI's Tariff Order and is working in cahoots with Star India. 

He also questions the fact that "Star has also challenged the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharti) Act, 2007 which provides for mandatory sharing of sporting events of national importance with the Prasar Bharati to enable them to re-transmit the same on its terrestrial networks and Direct-to-Home networks. It is pertinent to mention in this regard that the enactment of the said statute was only a view to provide access to the largest number of listeners and viewers, on a free to air basis, of sporting events of national importance which inter alia include the major cricket events involving the Indian team.The effort of Star has been to capture the entire broadcasting rights for all cricket events to the exclusion of others and become the 'sole supplier' without even sharing its signals/feed with the national broadcaster i.e. Doordarshan."

Jawaharji believes that "Star does not have the telecast rights for IPL, which are presently held by Sony Pictures. Once Star acquires the telecast rights for IPL as well, not only will the market share in terms of viewership of Star would skyrocket but also the distribution platforms such as DTH and Multi System Operators will have no choice but to subscribe the Star Sports channels for cricket content because of Star's monopolistic position as a sole holder of cricket telecast rights. As per the data released by BARC,in terms of reach, Star channels had a reach of 71% during the time of Champions Trophy for the period between 01.06.17-18.06.17, whereas Sony Pictures, during the IPLsession of 05.04.17-14.05.17 had a reach of 88%. In a situation where Star also has the rights for IPL, its channels' reach would have gone up to approximately 85% during IPL also.  Once this happens, this would enable the Star to exorbitantly price their sports channels and would also result in the Star being able to extort very high advertisement rates which is estimated to be in the range of about 2050 Crore which would constitute about 93% of total advertisement revenue earned by all sports channels in India (please refer Annexure IV). It is a matter of record that in the Year 2010, Star had fixed the rate of Rs. 9000 per subscriber per month for its HD Channels. Such a situation may again arise in case the Star is able to create a monopoly over the cricket broadcast rights. In addition, this may also result into Star making - "subscribrlng to its sports channels" - as a precondition for availing any other channel of Star. This would sound the death kneel for all other sports channels operating in India and is blatantly anti-competitive."

He finally exhorts that,   "with BCCI going to auction the telecast rights for IPLin next few days, we would expect BCCl led by the COA to act in a manner so as to safeguard and protect the competition in the industry as well as to prevent the creation of any kind of monopoly to the detriment of public interest. The acquisition of the IPL telecast rights by Star would lead to a situation where there will be an absolute monopoly thereby leading to dominance by Star in the field of cricketing telecast rights where Star will not only compel the distributors of TV channels such as the DTH operators to pay exorbitant price for their channels but also make the ultimate consumers to shell more and more money from their pockets. Such a situation would not only be anti-competitive but also anti- consumers as well."

Till the time of writing this report, Indiantelevision.com could not get across to relevant people in Star India, including India chief Uday Shankar, for a reaction to allegations leveled by Goel in his letter.

To read the letter in its totality...please click here...

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