DD Tries Again For Indo-Pak Cricket Rights, This Time Through Trai

New Delhi | Updated: Feb 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
State broadcaster Prasar Bharati doesnt want to miss out on the feel-good opportunity that India-Pakistan cricket series holds, even if that means making rounds of the regulators office. Prasar Bharatis enthusiasm to bag the terrestrial rights to the forthcoming series had dipped when there were signals from the election-ready government that the Indian team may not play in Pakistan.

But, the broadcaster has renewed its interest in telecasting India-Pakistan cricket, after the government gave its go-ahead for sending the Indian team. Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma met Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman Pradip Baijal on Thursday to explore the possibility of getting the terrestrial rights.

This was a follow-up to his letter sent two weeks ago to Mr Baijal. With the series scheduled to begin next month, Mr Sarma realises that he has no time to lose. He has requested Mr Baijal to mediate with the lawful rights-holder to the series, Dubai-based Ten Sports. Mr Sarma is offering Rs 20 crore to Ten Sports for terrestrial rights to the series.

Mr Baijal is likely to set up a meeting with Ten Sports officials soon, sources said. The Trai chairman would discuss the global parameters of telecasting events of national importance with Ten Sports. In this case, India-Pakistan cricket being played ahead of Indian Lok Sabha elections is being projected as an event of national importance.

In fact, Mr Sarma told Mr Baijal about numerous other countries following the practice of giving the terrestrial rights to important events to the national broadcaster. Interestingly, Mr Baijal had met Ten Sports officials recently, but nothing concrete came out of it.

Although the Communications Convergence Bill talks about giving terrestrial rights to the public broadcaster for events of national interest, the bill is in the backburner for now. However, thats not stopping Prasar Bharati from arguing about viewership and penetration levels, as against commercial deals.

According to Mr Sarma, if Doordarshan beams the matches, all TV homes of the country (around 80 million) would be able to access it. Ten Sports viewership is much lower as its a satellite channel, Mr Sarma says. When vice-president of Ten Sports Peter Hutton met Mr Sarma more than two weeks ago in the capital, all that Prasar Bharati got was radio rights to the India-Pakistan series (which were also with Ten Sports) for $40,000.

For television, Ten Sports was clear that only highlights to the matches could be given to Doordarshan. Even Mr Sarma was gradually getting used to the idea of showing only highlights. He told eFE two days ago that finally it would just be highlights of India-Pakistan series on DD. But, Prasar Bharati is giving it a last try, now, with the help of Mr Baijal!