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Cricket ad row resolved

New Delhi, Dec. 18: This battle went right down to the slog overs, but without a ball being bowled.

National broadcaster Doordarshan and ESPN have resolved their row over pop-up ads in a nail-biting finish, barely a week before Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys take on Pakistan in a limited overs series starting December 25.

Doordarshan (DD) had earlier refused to beam the series till ESPN provided “clean feed” free of pop-up ads.

That was after ESPN had informed Prasar Bharati that the shared feed for the Indo-Pak series would have embedded commercials — ads that pop up on a part of the screen during play, as opposed to the commercials shown during ad breaks.

Prasar Bharati, the controlling authority for Doordarshan, had invoked sections of the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing With Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007. Under the act, broadcast rights holders must share live feed of all “sporting events of national importance” with Prasar Bharati, to be shown on Doordarshan.

The act also says the clean feed should be provided to the national broadcaster. In return, the marketing revenue that Prasar Bharati earns from the coverage will be shared 25:75 with the broadcast rights holder, the latter getting the lion’s share.

Prasar had written to the information and broadcasting ministry, saying that since the channel had violated the provisions of the act, the licence to “uplink the transmission should not be granted to ESPN”.

On Friday, ESPN — which had earlier said the spots for the embedded commercials had been sold not by the broadcaster but by the Indian cricket board — wrote to Prasar Bharati, saying it would provide “clean feed” without any pop-up ads.

“DD and Prasar Bharati have to learn to be firm where their interests are being hurt,” Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar said.

Sources said Prasar Bharati feared the pop-up ads would eventually lead to loss of revenue as advertisers who had bought these pop-up spots would not want to buy conventional ad space with the national broadcaster, thus hitting its coffers.

“The fact that now they (ESPN) have agreed to provide clean feed proves their culpability. Obviously, there must have been a compensatory arrangement in place,” said a senior official.

On Saturday, there was bidding between DD and ESPN for marketing the advertisement space. ESPN won the bid and DD will get 25 per cent of the advertisement revenue that ESPN garners.

India and Pakistan play two T20 and three ODI matches between December 25 and January 6. The bilateral cricket series will be the first between the neighbours since 2007.