Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
A sessions court in Lahore has issued a stay order to prevent the PCB from suspending its deal with the state-owned broadcaster PTV.
The PCB had signed a three-year broadcast deal in 2020 with PTV, as well as an agreement with I-Media Communications Services, to ensure the PCB's broadcast content is not redistributed illegally by cable operators. The official signing of the deal had taken place in the presence of Imran Khan, the Pakistan prime minister who is also the PCB's patron-in-chief.
But last week the PCB terminated its cable-distribution deal and suspended the broadcasting deal with PTV Sports, deals from which, on signing them, the PCB said were expected to fetch them US$ 200 million over three years. The PCB also opened a new tender inviting bids for new media rights for home internationals for the upcoming series against West Indies and Australia. That process will have to be put on hold for now until the dispute is sorted.
At heart is the nature of the arrangement. The deal allowed PTV to broadcast all Pakistan's home bilateral commitments as well as all domestic cricket, though the PCB held on to the production rights. The deal with I-Media Communications Services was meant to ensure that the distribution of cricket content would only be done through licensed cable operators, and the value of the content would be protected against potential illegal distribution.
The expected earnings from this deal would come from advertising revenue and also, for the first time in Pakistan, distribution revenue from the cable operators - the equivalent of revenues that broadcasters make from subscriptions - through I-Media. That revenue is important in countries such as England, Australia and, increasingly, India but has been non-existent in Pakistan due to the nature of the industry.
It is believed to be on the basis of non-compliance on payments from the I-Media contract that the PCB has gone to court. In its plea before judge Talat Mahmood, PTV said that it "had been honouring" the terms of the deal at every stage. PCB, however, had suspended the deal with both parties because of the supposed non-compliance when it came to implementing the Digital Pakistan policy (one part of which is regulating the illegal cable operator business).
PTV also claim that PCB had never addressed any grievances to PTV's managing director, as the contract stipulated - ESPNcricinfo understands that PCB wrote directly to the Information Minister - who oversees the state-owned PTV - when required.
The broadcast deal was signed in the face of a shrinking broadcast market, more so after the Covid-19 pandemic. It ended a long-running broadcast relationship with Ten Sports. International rights for PCB's home series were sold separately to various channels around the world.
Pakistan has few local sports broadcasters to choose from though recently, the ARY Group has launched an HD sports channel called A-Sports, which covered the T20 World Cup and is presently broadcasting the Abu Dhabi T10 league. PTV, however, broadcasts its content on standard definition, which the PCB wants to change to HD.
Neither PTV or PCB chose to speak on the matter when contacted.