BCCI holds firm on broadcaster fees
The BCCI remains firm in its demand of what it calls "realistic costs" of providing space and access for independent TV and radio commentary teams from Sky TV and BBC's Test Match Special to cover England's tour of India which is due to begin in early November.
Officials have refused to make a statement on the matter but ESPNcricinfo understands that the BCCI has not signed any rights deals or contract with either Sky or TMS. The dispute of the amounts mentioned - £500,000 (US$806,000) for Sky and £50,000 (US$80,000) for BBC - has arisen because, for the first time, the BCCI holds production rights for the coverage of Indian cricket.
Sky and BBC have signed sub-licencee agreements with Star TV which is the owner of "global media rights" of Indian cricket which will give them access to the world feed. As Star is not in charge of production, the arrangements to set up independent commentary teams and provide access to commentary boxes and independent studios must be made between sub-licencees and the production house, in this case the BCCI.
A BCCI official, preferring anonymity, said: "It is not as if they have only asked for a commentary box. They have demanded a full control room, just like the one our host broadcaster has at every venue. If you have to create an additional space of 2000 sq ft, fully air-conditioned, it will bear a lot of cost. And neither the BCCI nor any of our affiliated units who would be hosting the match would bear the additional cost."
In the past, the TV channel that owned the rights, usually also controlled production. During tours by visiting teams, the cost of providing access and facilities to commentary teams from overseas was worked out between the production house and the foreign media channels. The "access fees" were worked out through mutual relationships between the broadcast and production companies. Costs have often been waived and even if the extent of the support required was substantial, the fees were arrived at following mutually-agreeable discussions.
With the BCCI owning production rights to all cricket out of India, the visiting broadcast companies must independently negotiate costs over and above what it has paid the rights owners for sub-licences. Just after Star won its global media rights, a joint ESPNStar production team had made a pitch for production rights of cricket in India but had not won the contract.
BCCI is not the only cricket board that owns production rights: Cricket South Africa's global rights are sold to SuperSport but it keeps production under its own control. Under CSA's terms, the Board has the final say on its commentary team for its home audience while IMG takes care of some of camera crew and graphics and also sorts out the agreements between independent visiting commentary teams.
The fees being asked for by the BCCI from Sky and BBC for production costs have led the visiting broadcasters to suggest they may decide to provide independent commentary from their UK headquarters off a television set rather than live action at the venue.
With additional inputs from Firdose Moonda
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo