Pakistan news September 7, 2013

Geo Super got 'fair deal' on TV rights - channel head

Pakistan sports channel Geo Super's business-unit head, Mohammad Ali, has said the channel struck up a "fair deal" with the PCB for the rights to broadcast the upcoming series against Sri Lanka in the UAE.

While Ten Sports bagged the rights for the series against South Africa, Geo Super won the television rights for a series of three Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20s along with a one-off T20 against Afghanistan. The values of the deals were kept confidential by the PCB when the deal was announced, but the board had said the amount was "higher than the previous contract". Media reports had the deal valued at close to $3.5 million.

"It's a fair deal compared to the previous contract [the Sri Lanka series in 2012, covered by Ten Sports], which was much lower than the current one," Ali told ESPNcricinfo. "This time the values are higher by up to 35%, so I think we offered a very decent price. We are looking to build our reputation here and establish a long-term relationship. For us it's a positive thing.

"It's not easy to do your business going away from your base but we wanted it and we got it and we will manage it. With the venture, we want to get our presence noticed and want people to know that we are promoting international cricket as well."

Geo also holds the rights for domestic cricket in Pakistan until October 2013 and is said to have run into financial difficulties during previous broadcast deals while showing world events. While the PCB has asked for a full bank guarantee before the series, Ali claimed that the channel had never defaulted in business in the past. "We never defaulted on any front," he said. "I am not saying we don't owe others money but when you are in business, you owe others money and others owe you money as well, so it's all about business."

There is also said to be excessive advertisements aired by Geo Super while broadcasting domestic games; when asked about the same for the upcoming international matches, Ali said they would "try to maintain a balance" and the "focus would be on cricket".

"It will be different but we will try to balance things. It's an extensive series with three Test matches so we have plenty of time to balance the advertisements with no intrusion. Yes, sometimes there are exceptional stages in rain-affected matches but obviously we won't book more than our capacity. The focus will be mainly on the cricket and we will ensure the best international cricket coverage for our viewers."

Ali also said the channel would not be sharing the broadcast rights with PTV, Pakistan's national channel, as there was no such specification in the contract. Geo Super was involved in a conflict with PTV in 2003 but Ali said their rivalry aside, they are "improving" their relationship with the national channel.

"There is no clause of sharing the rights with PTV at all in the contract but it has been written that we are to share the feed with the terrestrial networks at a price," Ali said. "We will share after a commercial arrangement, we believe people should not be deprived of anything. We are negotiating with them [PTV] and have maintained good relations with them. The rivalry aspect is put to one side, but we are improving our relationship with them and will move on together in a mutually beneficial relationship."

This is not the first time Geo TV network has taken international cricket rights from the PCB. The previous instance, in 2003, ended in a bizarre episode when the first one-day match of New Zealand's tour of Pakistan was blacked out worldwide. The controversy was defused when the then-president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, intervened. A meeting led to an agreement for a joint broadcast of the remaining matches, with Pakistan Television screening the games for viewers in Pakistan and Geo TV beaming the signal abroad.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here