The Telegraph
Thursday , July 24 , 2014
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DD penny-wise, an event of national importance

New Delhi, July 23: The Commonwealth Games (CWG) that kicked off in Glasgow will be shown on DD News instead of the usual DD Sports because of a revenue-driven tussle with a private channel in which the public broadcaster had its way.

For viewers, it means the CWG telecasts till August 3 would be interspersed with news bulletins.

At the heart of the move is the row with Ten Sports, which holds the rights to the games but is required to share live feed of “events of national importance” — CWG is considered as such — with the government broadcaster under law.

Under the law, the Prasar Bharati Act, DD gets 25 per cent of the ad revenues and the “original content rights owner”, Ten Sports in this case, 75 per cent.

Officials of Prasar Bharati, the public broadcaster that runs DD and All India Radio, have long complained that the current revenue-sharing system is loaded against them and want it changed to 50:50.

Usually, events like CWG are shown on DD National — a “terrestrial network”, meaning it can be accessed without a cable connection and is therefore thought to have wider reach — or DD Sports, available only on cable and DTH.

However, internal estimates suggested that DD National would suffer a loss of Rs 2.5 crore every day, totalling Rs 27.5 crore in the 11 days of the games because regular programmes would have to be shuffled.

Jawhar Sircar

The anticipated losses would have occurred as the CWG telecasts would have drawn fewer ads than the more popular regular entertainment shows, officials said. Also, the private broadcaster would have got 75 per cent of the kitty.

Faced with such a prospect, Prasar Bharati asked Ten Sports to share its feed with DD Sports. But Ten refused, contending the rules required feeds to be shared only with “terrestrial” channels and that DD Sports wasn’t one.

Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar said as a way out, the games were put on DD News as it had both cable and “terrestrial” audiences. “The act talks about reaching out to terrestrial viewers who would otherwise miss out on such events. So we decided to slot the games events on DD News. It is sensible to take such a step as not many in India would be interested in the 11-day sports (CWG) extravaganza. On earlier occasions, we have suffered because of the (revenue-sharing) provisions of the act but this time we are trying to find a way out,” Sircar told The Telegraph.

A government source said Ten Sports wasn’t agreeable to DD News either but grudgingly accepted after the Centre “intervened”.

“The ministry issued a showcause notice to Ten Sports on Tuesday for declining to share the feed with DD Sports. As DD News will get fewer ads compared to DD National, the private broadcaster is unhappy and is threatening to take us to court. But Prasar Bharati did not budge because the games don’t have high viewership and would have led to heavy losses (if shown on DD National),” the source said.

Ten Sports officials could not be reached for comment. Prasar Bharati officials were happy with the outcome, saying they had been able to resist the private broadcaster’s attempts to force a loss-making proposition. They hoped the new government would revise the current revenue-sharing formula that favours private broadcasters.

Other than DD News, viewers can catch the games on Ten Sports, Ten Action and Ten HD (high definition), some with Hindi commentaries.