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Sports channels go one up
- DD to telecast 90-minute highlights of Indo-Pak Tests

New Delhi/Calcutta, Jan. 10: Round One to TEN Sports.

The Dubai-based sports channel has retained its exclusive telecast rights for the India-Pakistan Test series with Doordarshan informing the Supreme Court today it was willing to show only 90-minute daily highlights of the Tests instead of a live telecast.

The development is a victory of sorts for private sports broadcasters battling the Centre on the must-share clause in the downlinking policy that makes it mandatory for private broadcasters to share all Team India cricket with Doordarshan.

But TEN Sports is not reaching for the champagne bottle just yet. “The matter seems to be heading in the right direction, but there’s still some way to go,” said Sharmista Rijhwani, TEN Sports managing director.

The three-Test Pakistan showdown, which starts on Friday, would have been the first major cricket series to be telecast after the guidelines came into effect.

TEN ' which had moved the apex court seeking a stay on the guidelines after Bombay High Court refused to provide it relief ' argued that sharing the feed with Doordarshan would cause it huge losses in advertising and cable subscription.

TEN offered to provide the national broadcaster a feed containing its logo and advertisements against a deposit of Rs 25 crore in the court or any other amount fixed by the judges. Doordarshan refused this offer.

“The offer made by TEN Sports to make their own feed available to Doordarshan along with advertisements arranged by the petitioners, subject to the condition that the respondents should make suitable deposit to compensate the sports channel for alleged loss, is not acceptable,” solicitor-general G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for Doordarshan, told the apex court today.

“It’s not a question of us not being willing to pay Rs 25 crore. TEN Sports had laid down some improbable conditions,” Doordarshan director-general Navin Kumar told The Telegraph. “How can we make money with a feed that has TEN’s logo and ads'”

Regarding the one-day matches, the counsels for both parties informed the bench of Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Tarun Chatterjee that a workable solution would be discussed. Hearing resumes on January 30.

“We have placed some proposals -- protecting our business -- before Doordarshan,” a TEN Sports official told The Telegraph. The company has also placed a “large order” for decoder boxes for non-cable markets, the official added.

While TEN has tasted victory, another sports broadcaster, ESPN STAR Sports, continues to fight the Centre on the must-share guidelines. ESPN STAR’s case comes up for hearing in Delhi High Court on January 18.

TEN’s distributor for India, SET Discovery, is smiling, too. “We are very happy with the decision but it should have happened a long time back. We have little time left to leverage subscriptions now,” said Anuj Gandhi, SET Discovery president.

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