Doordarshan now wants all matches of men’s hockey WC

Nov. 13 MIB notification on mandatory sharing of sporting signals surprises stakeholders

NEW DELHI: Even as TV sports channels are wracking their brains as part of a public consultation to justify why proposed tweaking of rules relating to mandatory sharing of signals of sporting events is not a good idea, the Indian government has gone ahead to notify hockey World Cup for sharing with the pubcaster.

Star India holds the broadcast rights of the men’s hockey World Cup 2018 to be held in the Indian state of Orissa from 28 November to 16 December 2018. The matches are scheduled to be aired on Star Sports channels and streamed live on the media company’s digital platform, Hotstar.

In a notification dated 13 November 2018, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has stated that all the matches of the men’s hockey WC were “sporting events of national importance”. Meaning? The matches would have to be shared by Star with pubcaster Doordarshan, which will telecast them on its terrestrial network and FTA DTH platform, DD FreeDish.

If hockey is a notified sport, any rights holder in India would be compelled to share it with the national broadcaster. So, what’s new in the latest notification?

As per the 2007-legislated sports rules, only the semi-final and final matches are to be shared with DD at a mutually decided financial arrangement. DD suddenly realised it needs all the matches for DD Sports as the tournament was being held in India and, hence, the fresh directive from the MIB that used a technicality in the official rules to include the whole hockey tournament.

Industry watchers feel that such arbitrary actions by the government not only harm India’s image, but can also impact the business models of sports channels in the long run that acquire content at high prices. For example, Star bagged the broadcast rights for cricket IPL last year, beating original holders Sony and other tough bidders, at a mind-boggling price of $2.55 billion.

Meanwhile, the public consultation that has been initiated by the MIB takes the mandatory sharing of sports signals of notified sports a step further. The amendments seek to make legal re-distribution of DD signals by other distribution platforms of TV signals (like LCOs, MSOs and may be OTT platforms) --- something that’s unlawful presently.

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