'Viewing experience will not be compromised' - CEO, Star Group
Uday Shankar, the CEO of the Star Group that bagged the broadcast rights for Indian cricket for 2012 to 2018 for approximately $750 million, speaks to ESPNcricinfo, answering some of the most immediate and important questions arising out of the six-year deal.
How big a deal is this for Star TV?
Indian cricket is the biggest property in the game. The frequency and consistency of the BCCI's calendar is its biggest strength. It is a very important investment.
Star TV does not have an exclusive sports channel. Where will Star telecast the matches?
The decision is that we will exploit [the rights] or we will broadcast in collaboration with ESPN STAR Sports* [ESS].
The BCCI has always controlled production. Will the board continue to produce international matches?
Yes, the board will continue to produce matches. That does not mean it will hinder our approach. Somebody has to produce the cricket. It is a question of working along with them and I do not see any issues arising out of this. As for the question of allowing the BCCI to have an authority to appoint commentators, I cannot answer that at the moment. We have just made the deal. In any case, we will be taking such decisions in collaboration with ESPN STAR Sports, who are a lot more experienced in this regard.
You are paying 40-odd crore per match. The bid almost defies the market situation currently. What did you have in mind when you worked out the figure?
Given the viewership that cricket has in this country we feel that the value that we have attributed to it [each match] justifies itself. Our confidence comes from the popularity of cricket. And we think as the reach of media grows in this country, the penetration and popularity will automatically grow.
You also have to recover the money and in the recent past we have seen how Nimbus struggled to pay the BCCI its dues on time for various home series…
What Nimbus did or did not do is not something for us to talk about. Star is the most robust and the most dynamic media company in this country. We have a bigger reach than any other media company. We could not have built up that reach if I had not satisfied our viewers over a long period of time.
Excessive intrusion of advertisements has been a major irritant for viewers in the past. How will you ensure it will not happen?
There are very clear norms for advertising in cricket, which the Indian board has laid out. Naturally, the rights holders have to follow the norms. We at Star and ESS are very, very particular about ensuring that the viewing experience is not compromised.
*ESPN STAR Sports is a 50:50 joint venture between Walt Disney (ESPN, Inc.), the parent company of ESPNcricinfo, and News Corporation Limited (STAR)
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo