Talks on to widen reach of Tests telecast
As India embark on another Test tour, fans in India are asking a question they've raised often in the past few months: Will they be able to watch the Test matches? The answer this time isn't much clearer but there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
On paper, it's a no-brainer: The telecast rights to the England tour are owned by ESPN-Star Sports (ESS), a seasoned player in the field and accessible in most TV homes. ESS have, in fact, launched a cricket-only channel, Star Cricket, which will be showing the Tests and the two warm-up matches, beginning tomorrow. However, the twist lies in the fact that the new channel isn't widely available on cable and is yet to be included in DTH bouquets.
So, once again, it could be only a handful of fans that gets to see the Tests, beginning on July 19 at Lord's.
The situation could, however, change for the better. "We are in discussions with DTH operators [to include Star Cricket in their bouquets] and are optimistic of an agreement by July 15," an ESS spokesperson said. "The channel is priced at Rs 28 per month and the feedback is positive. Obviously it is our prerogative to reach as many viewers across India as possible and we will do our best to ensure that."
ESS officials also say that highlights of the three Tests will be shown on Doordarshan, which, as a policy, has telecast the ODIs live but not the Tests. It is a refreshing change from the recent Test series in Bangladesh, which a large number of viewers in India missed out on because they had no access to either Neo Sports, which owned the rights, or to the regional-language channels they had brought on board.
There's rarely a problem with watching ODIs, and ESS sources said the seven matches that follow the Tests would be simulcast; Star Cricket will have commentary in Hindi, while English commentary will be provided on either ESPN or Star Sports.
The ODIs will also be telecast live on Doordarshan, in keeping with the Sports Act passed by the Indian government ordering mandatory sharing of live feed.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo