TV coverage of cricket

'Broadcasters under pressure to advertise'

Siddhartha Talya

January 27, 2011

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

A collage of the images from the coverage of the India-South Africa series on Ten Cricket
There is pressure on broadcasters to advertise as much as they do, says a top official involved with Ten Cricket © Ten Cricket
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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

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Posted by Rahul_Vasudevan 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.

Posted by CricketFan1980 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.

Posted by ennarvi 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.

Posted by shaan_se 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!

Posted by   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?

Posted by quark 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!

Posted by hari.babu1486 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)...

Posted by Magchennai 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)

Posted by Ankur.Bhardwaj 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.

Posted by Ankur.Bhardwaj 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.

Posted by maddy20 on (January 28, 2011, 4:34 GMT)

What the hell are they talking about? 125 Rs a month? In which place mate? I pay 500 bucks a month !Hell I would pay 500 more for ad-free sports for what its worth!

Posted by   on (January 28, 2011, 3:53 GMT)

The low should be formed in a way that ad space to be limited a particular percentage of time of the total coverage...... say if its 8 hrs for cricket....... the max should be 5% that is 40 Mins. It includes pre match commentary, break etc.....

Posted by VickGower on (January 28, 2011, 1:44 GMT)

Ten Cricket is bad but others like Neo Sports are just as bad, we need to be clear about that. If anything I like the game show of the former much more than others. I find the panel - host and Arun Lal most times - at least somewhat of a redeeming feature of Ten Cricket.

Posted by Cricket_Commentator on (January 27, 2011, 23:11 GMT)

AAHHHH finaly great job done by I&B ministry.Good work.It was outrageous to watch IND-SA series in Ten Cricket,they done it such a horrible manner.First time in my life i watched the live match in Doordarshan when the same match is available in other channel.Half of the screen is covered with the adv all the times.Though the other channel's also doing the such kind of advertise NEO,ESPN STAR,Even Doordarshan also doing adv. but they all still in the limit.But Ten Cricket & Ten Sports broadcast's irritates us to change that channel.Only in Ten Cricekt& Ten Sports, between every ball bowled there is an adv in mibble of the screen something has been coming out of the ground at first we hugely surprised what happened in the ground but it was an adv Ho god who discovered such a type of adv it was really disappointing.Only one way to control those channels who violate the rules ban them.Ten cricket if you are facing losses just call it a day, get out of this business.

Posted by yesmahesh on (January 27, 2011, 18:21 GMT)

Absurd reasoning by them! What is truly annoying is, the batsman hits a ball and before we know where the ball goes, ads shoot in..., whenever a wicket falls, ads shoot in again, no replay is shown.... I&B should punish them severely because TV channels are doing these repeatedly :|

Posted by   on (January 27, 2011, 17:59 GMT)

who said 125 , i pay 300 pm

Posted by   on (January 27, 2011, 17:58 GMT)

First time in my life I preferred Doordarshan to any dedicated sports channel for watching cricket....!!!!

Posted by gouthamkotera on (January 27, 2011, 17:57 GMT)

Root cause of this issue is BCCI. they are the one who artificially raise the price to acquire rights and then its a snowballing effect down to common viewers like us. Government is not doing much either. if they can lay down clear rules on broadcasting, no broadcaster will make an attempt to flout the rules and that will also force BCCI to reduce their cut. but its all a distant dream in India where only money talks. I sincerely hope that ESPN Star will give us a good world cup and dont disappoint us like other channels. by the way, I am also game for premium viewing if thats the only way out.

Posted by   on (January 27, 2011, 16:25 GMT)

Absurd reasoning. How on earth other broadcasters are telecasting sports events without hampering the game. Watching cricket in Ten Cricket is a pain.

Posted by   on (January 27, 2011, 16:01 GMT)

this is complete hokum. that 125 rs he is talking about....even after the under declaration by the operators....the quantity of people watching the game is enormous....at least it doesnt justify a nescafe coffee mug dancing on the cricket field or the field blowing up

Posted by   on (January 27, 2011, 15:59 GMT)

TEN's telecast of the entire series was quite pathetic. Contrast that with the same being telecast on Sky in the UK, the feed was quite clean, mostly without any ads. Sky inserted ads only when a wicket fell as opposed to TEN who went on inserting ads near the slip cordon, during the match and in between overs. Good work by the I&B ministry.They need tio crackdown on broadcasters often.

Posted by Umamahesh_Srigiriraju on (January 27, 2011, 15:51 GMT)

Dear Sir, if you are facing losses just call it a day, get out of this business and move on instead of dishing out trash while broadcasting and even now. You signed on the dotted line and follow it. Period! As far as cable operators and other blah blah.... we couldn't care less. You are suggesting a premium service, go ahead and do it. But you can't just do things that are clear violations. I'm sure, these gentlemen must have thought sub kuch chalta hi in India. Shame.

Posted by   on (January 27, 2011, 15:48 GMT)

Iam very much willing to pay high premium to watch live sports feeds

Posted by Viper2.0 on (January 27, 2011, 15:39 GMT)

Well these kind of cheap advertisements will only make the viewers more angry and stay away from these cheap products.The only thing i am asking is do you people broadcast the same number of advertisements when countries other than India are playing?? I don't think so,when pakistan and SA were playing i didn't see these kind of advertisements.But whenever India plays we can see these kind of idiotic ads every 2 mins and even before the over is completed,we would be viewing some stupid ads.Whenever i watch ten cricket i usually end up watching ony 3-4 balls per over and the remaining 2 balls are lost in the advertisement.And when a wicket falls,the viewer doesn't have the luxury of viewing the replays immediately.We have to wait at least 2 mins to watch the replays.Two Channels Neo Cricket and Ten Cricket are the worst channels to watch Cricket Matches.I wonder why they call it as TEN CRICKET,when it should be called as "TEN ADVERTISING" - from a very disappointing Cricket Lover!

Posted by GlobalCricketLover on (January 27, 2011, 15:27 GMT)

Please! launch the ad-free service as soon as possible. I do not expect BCCI to behave and thereby layout a few clauses which will bring some sanity to the broadcasting rights price. Cricket has never been their priority and neither it will be in future. Give us an option of ad-free channel....we don't mind paying!

Posted by nzcricket174 on (January 27, 2011, 15:06 GMT)

The premium comes across as something doggy. Here in New Zealand you HAVE TO pay to watch your sport. Except for World Cups and major tournaments you will almost never see a live sporting event on television. The only reason I won't say the Indian broadcasters are idiots is because I don't know what the economy is like in India. I don't know if people are willing to pay a slightly higher price to watch sport (which here has about 1 regular ad/hour).

Posted by indophile on (January 27, 2011, 15:00 GMT)

This is a load of rubbish. The broadcaster is trying to cover his greed and absolute disrespect for the viewer under the guise of low subscription cost, under reporting and high rights cost. If he says it is a loss for them to telecast cricket matches to Indian viewers, why are they even entering the bid? I'm sure Ten Cricket is not registered as a charitable org trying to serve the poor! The broadcasters fully know what they are walking into and they can just not enter the bid if they think the entire telecast is going to be a huge loss for them.

What we pay by way of low subscription is compensated by the volume.

Posted by   on (January 27, 2011, 14:56 GMT)

Please, pretty please with sugar on top, start the premium service! I am more than willing to pay and watch Test matches the way it was supposed to be. I don't understand how suddenly only Ten Cricket is undergoing loss when till last year, and I am sure the upcoming World Cup, ESPN and Star Sports show clutter free ads. I feel sorry for Shaun Pollock and company who were obviously forced to utter the score at the end of the over as soon as the ball hit bat. In a country with such wide disparities in wealth, but a sport which transcends all of it, there is no option but to come up with different models to satisfy all kinds of customers.

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