It was Zee’s failure to make money off the Kuala Lumpur tri-series last year, and the BCCI’s insistence that it share feed with Doordarshan, that finally did it for the deal.
“The BCCI introduced the must-carry clause, which was not there in the initial contract. This made it compulsory for broadcasters to share the live feed with Doordarshan, causing huge commercial losses for broadcasters,” said Ashish Kaul, senior VP (marketing) of Essel Group, which owns Zee.
Kaul said they had asked the BCCI to give them a discount on the $219 million they were paying for the rights, but the BCCI had not responded. “We’ve heard that Nimbus (who have the rights for matches played in India) have been given a substantial discount and we wanted the same. But as they did not take our calls, we had to take a tough decision.”
According to sources, Zee lost Rs 50 crore on the Australia-India-West Indies tri-series in Kuala Lumpur last year. “The deal was envisaged as an annual Sharjah-like event that would have a place in the international calendar,” a Zee source told HT.
“Our bid was high but was recoverable. What we now have is someone running all over the countryside for a willing host with no planning and no time to warn advertisers of events, huge losses... then the mandatory sharing — it’s bad business.”
Board sources told HT the India-South Africa series in Ireland is not viable without a broadcaster. “We’ll have to call it off. We can’t conduct it without revenue. Apart from South Africa, we have to pay hosts Ireland.”
What the problem is
Broadcasters the world over are upset with the I&B Ministry’s Sports Broadcasting Bill that makes it mandatory to share feed of all India games with Doordarshan, not just the games in India but also those abroad.
According to Board officials, initially, this agreement covered only terrestrial rights, which was acceptable, but the DTH telecast has caused a huge problem.
“The signal is freely available on DTH to anyone and that is causing large-scale piracy, in India and neighbouring countries, so obviously broadcasters are upset. Why would people pay to watch when they get it free?,” said a Board official.
An edgy BCCI, fearing just this situation — broadcaster pullouts — has asked the Ministry to encrypt the signal and have even offered to make the one-time payment for the expense involved.
The government hasn’t responded. I&B Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi is in Zurich (possibly for the ongoing FIFA congress) and was unavailable for comment.
“We have already started feeling the pinch,” said the Board official. “And while the Zee deal falling through would mean a loss of about 50 crore, after expenses, there might be more on the way.”