Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The greedy, The bully and The victim

India won yesterdays day/night ODI against West Indies in Cuttack. The match was a real contrast to the previous encounter in which both teams crossed 300 runs while yesterday neither team could cross 200! But what was more interesting than the match itself was all the drama that happened behind the scenes regarding the telecast of the matches.

The BCCI, henceforth called the greedy, had made statements a while back, where it had stated that all matches held in India will be given to Doordarshan, henceforth called the bully, by default and the other broadcasters will have to work out their telecast modalities with the bully. Somewhere along this line the greedy changed his plan and decided to sell the telecast rights to matches being played in India. Quite obviously the bully does not have or did not want to spend so much money on telecasting these matches. It stayed out of the race and waited. Couple of initial series went to the Star Sports-ESPN combine. The bully sprang into action and demanded that they should be allowed to simulcast the matches as they have the maximum terrestrial reach within India. The Murdoch party have deep pockets and were smart enough to comply while making a buck or two in the process. Then came the chance of the dubai based Ten Sports, a new player in the game, it challenged the bully that what it was doing was not fair and that they needed a revenue sharing model. It was agreed upon that the same Ads will run on both the bully and Ten Sports. This of course didn't happen as planned as I couldn't see the same Ads on both the channels. None the less, another series was viewed by everybody and another disaster averted.

Now comes the newest entrant in the whole rat race, Neo Sports, henceforth called the victim. The victim has put a lot of money, 612 million dollars worth of money, into buying rights from the greedy to telecast live all matches being held in India. The deal goes through and the greedy and bully don't say a word. When its time for the live telecast, the bully wakes up and wants a piece of the action. The victim has spent so much money that its existence depends on the revenue generated from the telecast of these matches. The courts still side the bully, but now with a twist. They can telecast the feed from the victim, but with a 7 minute delay. Yes, this means that you have to resist following cricinfo and instantly delete all the latest score SMS's that come and mask out the four corners of your TV set as every channel in India will show the latest scores! Thanks to the greedy and bully, we have a new twist to India's favorite pastime. The audacity of the bully doesn't stop there, not only does it get the feed for free, it shows Ads which generate revenue for itself, all at the expense of the victim.

The victim on the other hand is not exactly helping itself. The CAS (Conditional Access System) , which is followed in the metros other than Chennai from this year came into effect, ruled that no pay channel will demand more than Rs.5 per subscriber. But Neo Sports knows that the majority junta in India is still at the mercy of the cable operators. It therefore has decided to charge Rs.58.50 per subscriber!! Agreed that India is cricket crazy but its not that crazy either. So, as expected, most of Bangalore at least does not have Neo Sports and is more than happy to view the 7 minute delayed feed from Doordarshan.

Agreed that most of India does not get cable, but how can Doordarshan do this kind of arm twisting? They should pay for what they get or if they mask their bully attitude with the reason that they are trying to cater to the masses, then, the money that they make off the telecast (via Ads) should be given completely to the original telecaster, in this case Neo Sports. How is BCCI given a free ride on what it can do? If the High Court cares so much, then why not prevent BCCI from actually selling the rights to anyone for astronomical costs? Why not give Doordarshan the first shot at buying the rights and only on being rejected should BCCI try selling it to the other broadcasters and then on Doordarshan shuts up for good!

Cricket in India, can any other sport(business?) get any murkier?

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