January 29, 2011

World Cup 2011

How broadcasters can cut costs and keep viewers happy

Andrew Hughes
Workers weld the roof of Eden Gardens, Kolkata, January 27, 2011
Eden Gardens: Now to be used as a set for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie  © AFP
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Wednesday, 26th January My South Africa versus India series was splendid. Lots of lovely cricket with only sporadic interruptions from a trio of self-conscious men in dark suits sitting in an arctic blue studio that looked like the penguin enclosure at a downmarket zoo. But Indian viewers had it much worse. Their cricket was squashed into a small window, the rest of the screen being reserved for gaudy ads hawking all manner of worthless tat. Why was this? A prominent man in nice shoes from Ten Cricket explained:

“…there is a significant amount of pressure to monetise Indian cricket events.”

There may well be, but since I don’t speak gibberish, it took me a while to grasp his argument. Like cats, small children and economists, I don’t really understand economics, but I got there in the end. The argument goes like this: It costs a lot of money to put Indian cricket on television, leaving very little for he and his fellow boardroom loiterers to spend on IPL cufflinks, porcelain elephants and diamond-studded ipods. So without adverts, they would have to cut costs.

And then it came to me. Why not decommission the commentary booth? I don’t know what Ravi Shastri or Ian Botham charge per hour, but by definition, it’s too much. Dispense with the men whose job it is to talk about what we’ve already seen and to speculate on our behalf about what we might see next. Imagine a televised match where all you could hear was the roar of the drunken crowd, the thwack of leather on jaw and Peter Siddle cussing. Commentary-free television? I’d pay for that.

Thursday, 27th January Leaving everything to the last minute is dangerous and thrilling. We’ve all been there. A tableful of diners are due any minute and you’ve spent so long straightening your nose hair that you’re way behind schedule. So you dash about like Jonty Rhodes after too many espressos, finally pulling the last tray of sauteed snails out of the oven and sprinkling the cocaine on the trifle just as the first guest arrives. There’s nothing quite like it to get the adrenalin flowing.

Sometimes, however, it goes wrong. Two days ago, the tournament director of the World Cup informed us that even though his kitchen appeared to be on fire, he had it all under control. But sadly, his stadium soufflé failed to rise in time and Eden Gardens, though in many ways ready, turns out to be not quite as ready as all that. In its current state, spectators would be required to perch on scaffolding like pirates clinging to the rigging and third man would have to wear a hard hat.

By contrast, many fans chose not to wait until the last minute and instead had the unbelievable bad manners to plan their visit to Kolkata in advance. Amateurs. Let them go to Bengaluru, as Marie Antoinette almost certainly didn’t say.

Friday 28th, January Step aside Leicestershire, the professionals are here. Yes, when it comes to squandering money they haven’t got, Lancashire are top of the tree, weighing in with a £2m loss, the largest ever recorded by a county and this despite their £1.7m handout from the ECB. How’d they do it? Well, they wanted to tart up their crumbly stadium and so, like any sensible loss-making sporting association, they lashed out £1.5m in fees to get the best planning advice money can buy. The advice was so good that the redevelopment is now stalled at the planning stage and may not be complete on time.

But this whopping loss is just the start. Losing their Test match status and bringing on the inevitable bankruptcy and dissolution of the sporting side of the business will usher in a bright new future for Lancashire CCC. With that tiresome cricket stuff out of the way, the visionary entrepreneurs of Old Trafford can get on with developing their conference, hospitality and supermarket business (ample parking available). And then they can make some real money!

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Syed Aiyaz Ahmed on (February 1, 2011, 6:47 GMT)

And who is this guy Charu Sharma and why do we need to listen to insane comments?

What's his cricketing skills anyway

Posted by haris on (January 31, 2011, 5:11 GMT)

its such a shame that best cricket stadium in india cant host a single worldcup match,thumbs down to bcci

Posted by Seane ervine on (January 31, 2011, 1:01 GMT)

Now a days I keep television audio on Mute and listen to commentary on Testmatchsofa.com website. All you guys should also try it. They are covering world cup also. It is so much fun man.

Posted by Edward on (January 31, 2011, 0:33 GMT)

How does this article in any way trigger a flood of comments about India's WC hopes? At least it's not the usual torrent of people listing 11 names at random, claiming Saaaaachin is God, wondering what the younger Pathan is doing in his spare time, or displaying a tragically underdeveloped grasp of contractions (not on the TOEFL word list, methinks)...

I'll pitch in a quid for commentary-free cricket, as long as we have an Indian-free Cricinfo.

Posted by JL on (January 31, 2011, 0:04 GMT)

Dunno about getting rid of commentators...have you ever tried watching with no sound - it's a bit weird! Alternatively, I'll sit in the best viewing spot and add expert comments at a fraction of the fee Messrs Botham and Shastri charge. Make me an offer!

Posted by Chris on (January 30, 2011, 20:26 GMT)

When the sport is fast paced and so much is happening that another (or 3) pairs of eyes on the scene helps. But cricket? I think I'm capable of catching all the action without wheezing reminisces of 1974, or Shane Warne's tireless repetition of the same three thoughts, or any of the feeble attempts at humor or light conversation.

What a joy it would be to just hear the crowd and bat. Yes..I would pay extra for that.

Posted by Alfred on (January 30, 2011, 17:38 GMT)

"they lashed out £1.5m in fees to get the best planning advice money can buy..." Ah tis but the modern world. Priceless...

Posted by Dil on (January 30, 2011, 12:00 GMT)

2 a certain extent I agree with "hs ahuwalia's" comments as i havent been 2 ny other country Well dont ve any issues with ads in betwn overs bt 1 shouldnt over do it. Its a busi. now by all means bt jst bcoz of dat U cant take tv viewing public 4 granted Most of d times these ppl switch 2 ads as soon as d last ball of d over is bowled irresp. of whether d batsman scored runs, beaten, or got out d viewer has 2 wait until d next over 2 know what has happened of d prev ball. If its a 4, 6 or wkt it would b replayed else.. even worse is when d game gets halted 4 review, med attn, argmts, etc. 4 them money comes 1st Shame on them!! Also I hate d pre-match, lunch and post-match shows, esp. by d home team anchors, dey show a lot of bias, they shd b neutral bt their face drops when india does badly, blossoms when dey do a gr9 job These shows should striked off, which reduces prod costs so called experts themselves are mediocres bt dey comment dat sachin should do this and that, comedians. oops

Posted by Ian Darbyshire on (January 30, 2011, 10:04 GMT)

Agree that commentary free coverage should be an option. Everytime Botham comes on I turn the sound down anyway- he never enhances the play with any of his comments. He is paid for his name not his ability as a media man. I listen to Michael Holding and Richie Benaud- 2 humble men who never ramble on about how great they were as players

Posted by Anand on (January 30, 2011, 5:45 GMT)

wow, I had this very same thought during the Ind-SA series. I love listening to what Dhoni has to say to his bowlers and fielders over the stump mike. It's pretty entertaining sometimes. And it's a shame I have to pull my ears wide to hear it through the din of what's called commentary.

And the Eden episode is a shame. I DON'T want to talk about this lazy bums anymore.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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