TV coverage of cricket January 27, 2011

'Broadcasters under pressure to advertise'


The high cost of broadcasting rights, the low subscriber prices for TV channels and under-declaration by cable operators have created greater pressure on cricket broadcasters to generate revenue through ad sales, Atul Pande, a top official of the organisation owning the Ten Cricket channel, has said. Ten Cricket was issued a show-cause notice by the Indian government's Information and Broadcasting Ministry for violating the country's advertising codes during its coverage of India's tour of South Africa. The channel's advertisements were deemed to be interfering with the programme, prompting the government to seek an explanation from the broadcaster.

"Given the status of rights fees for most of the Indian tours you've got broadcasters trying to generate as much revenue as possible. It's possibly leading to a clutter of advertising across all channels because they have to also monetise the property," said Pande, the CEO of Sports Business, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited. "The underlying principle is that there is a significant amount of pressure to monetise Indian cricket events, and the monetisation structure is such that there is pressure to generate money through ad sales."

Apart from high rights fees, Pande said the relatively low cost of subscribing to Indian TV channels was another problem facing broadcasters. "The Indian consumer, or subscriber, pays a very little amount of money to watch very high-quality sport. Possibly the lowest in the world. Even if you bought all these sports channels today on a-la-carte prices, you'll still not pay more than say Rs125 a month. And you have access to virtually any live sporting event in the world.

"The other issue is the way in which cable pricing is administered in India which is that most cable operators under-declare and therefore the revenue which comes to the broadcaster is much lesser than it should be."

For sports channels across India, cricket, and especially Indian cricket, generates 85% of ad revenues, Pande said, and other avenues to monetise were limited. Broadcasters, he claimed, were not being greedy to maximise profits but were making losses. "We are struggling to pay our bills during cricket events. You look at the profit and loss numbers of two businesses that are listed. One of them is ours - we are a subsidiary of a listed company - and the other listed company is another Indian sports channel that is now trying to go for an IPO. Both these businesses lose money."

Though Pande admitted broadcasters were willing to cut down on intrusive advertising, he called for contracts between cricket boards and broadcasters to be structured in a way that would protect the interests of the latter. The cost for the broadcaster, Pande said, was also affected by a law that called on them to share feed with the public broadcaster, Doordarshan, as in the case of the India-South Africa ODIs. "It also precludes the value of the event to the broadcaster because it increases inventory, and the pricing also gets impacted for the broadcaster's channel."

A possible solution, Pande suggested, for the current problem was a premium fee paid by the consumer for ad-free coverage; England and Australia follow a similar model. "We are more than happy to give an ad-free feed at a higher price. If there is a customer who wants to look at uninhibited watching of a cricket event, and he is willing to pay a price for it we are more than happy to provide a service. We need to get a license expeditiously for that kind of a service, and we should be able to price it the way we want to price it. It's like any other premium service; if the customer is prepared to pay a premium price for it, he gets a premium service."

Ten Cricket was launched in August 2010 and prior to airing matches from India's tour of South Africa, also broadcasted the series between Pakistan and South Africa held in the UAE.

Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rahul on January 30, 2011, 10:24 GMT

    No other broadcaster in India have been able to match ESPN Star in terms of quality of coverage and commentary. They are the best in the business and no doubt would provide the best quality coverage for the World Cup, England and Aus tours this year. I wish ESPN Star should have had rights for India cricket and SA/NZ boards as well. Sky in UK, Channel 9 in Aus and ESPN Star Sports in India are the World leaders in cricket broadcasting. Not like others who are in the business just for making money and not at all concerned about coverage quality, commentary etc.

  • Srinivasan on January 28, 2011, 21:50 GMT

    If the CEO is really serious about customers' satisfaction let him try out a trial for a series that India plays in HD, separate subscription and AD FREE. Because, come on, why should a customer pay for ads? This feed need not go to the national broadcast since it will not be in the clause and a nominal fee from customers for HD and AD Free broadcast will ensure that Ten cricket HD gets enough customers to break even and bring profits. Otherwise, hire some financial experts to study how they do it in Channel 9 where the channel is FTA (Free To Air). Good luck Mr. CEO.

  • Vijay on January 28, 2011, 8:48 GMT

    I seriously think Ten Cricket is a bakwaas channel! The ODI coverage on DD was far far superior than what was on Ten Cricket. Ten cricket's coverage was like good old days of DD coverage (way back in 1990's) where they used to bring in ads whenever they wanted to...the classic example being Zak's no-ball catch of Morkel in final ODI. Whereas Ten was airing ads after ads, DD was showing the replays of the no-ball of Morkel. It is an absolute rubbish channel to be frank...Thank god that we dont have to see WC on this channel and keeping my fingers crossed that ESS does not do like this.

  • Shantanu on January 28, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    I had subscribed to Ten Sports as a part of the package with Airtel, by which I had subscribed to all existing sports channels... Ten Sports then hived off Ten Cricket, for which I was asked to pay Rs.30 per month as subscription. with advance payments for 6 months. IMO, Rs.30 is a lot of money to be paid for subscribing for viewing just one test series with no schedule of upcoming cricket series. Also after reading these news reports where Good Old DD is preferred, I am very glad that I did not subscribe to Ten Cricket!

  • Dummy4 on January 28, 2011, 6:24 GMT

    hmm... sorry sir, there r other sports channels also which broadcast events, n still do not need to tactics employed by you- they do not have ads all over the screen as you do. So stop giving stupid reasons for your greed. However, no channel is sparing the viewers, reason as one reader commented- moment the last ball of the over is balled, or a wicket fells- in comes the advert. There have been occasions when we are celebrating the opposing batsman is out, only to come back from the ad break and know that Ishant had over stepped! However, it doesn't matter to you guys, does it?

  • rishu on January 28, 2011, 5:52 GMT

    There is something peculiar I noticed. I own a tata sky HD STB; and while i tune into Indian cricket coverage in HD on any channel; there are NO ADS AT ALL! you get to see/hear what is happening between the middle overs(and believe me, there is nothing to hear as the commentators pleasingly keep quiet); and it's a much better experience.I guess i will keep paying for the channels and services (though it will cost more as indicated in the article) but the service is damn good!

  • Hari on January 28, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    Ten's r 1 of the worst telecaster of the cricket matches...It was really pity to watch Ind vs SA series in Ten's.. whereas ESPN telecasting Aus vs Eng series tremendously...Hope it will telecast still better of cricket festival(World Cup)...

  • Maheswaran on January 28, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    Reasoning by the CEO looks very lame. Don't compare India and England, our population is huge so please don't calculate like (100 people * 125 in England ) and (1000 people * 125) . why you are bothering about all sports channels costing 125 The question is direct and simple why your channel had crossed he limitations set by the Indian Broadcast. Like some on e mentioned above, after many years, I preferred watching Doordarshan cricket. When other sports channels ae coming at 20 or 30 Rs. Ten cricket was 49 rs in Airtel(It is the cheapest in Sun digital it was 99Rs)

  • Ankur on January 28, 2011, 4:51 GMT

    And for all the criticisms and barbs directred at it; it was Doordarshan that started HD telecast in India with the CWG (great pictures). Not some commercialised entity. We get poor feed. We pay for this poor feed. We are then injected with nonsensical advertisements right in the middle of action. Some justice that.

  • Ankur on January 28, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    Nonsense. How is Channel 9 doing it? Channel Nine is a free to air channel in Australia. And even in England (best telecast in the world, Channel4 even beat Channel 9's) the game. Indian broadcasters are taking us for a ride. They don't have the best equipment in the world (cameras and stuff). Just compare the sharpness of the picture from Australia, England and New Zealand with Indian pictures and you'll know the difference. They are paying Indian salaries to staff who work here (cameramen, technical staff etc). They over-commercialise and then talk nonsense like this. We are not idiots you buggers. We know what you are doing.

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