Doing away with strategic time-outs in the Indian domestic Twenty20 league — to curb spot fixing opportunities — can set back broadcaster Set Max by over Rs 245 crore, which was close to 30% of its revenue this season.
Thus it came as no surprise that the cricket Board's interim president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, omitted it from a slew of measures announced on Monday to curb corruption in the game, at the end of the emergent working committee meeting.
When asked about it, he said, “We have not thought about it. It is just a financial exercise.”
Even before he took over as interim chief, after N Srinivasan stepped aside temporarily, he had spoken about ending the strategic time-outs, among the other measures. Some BCCI officials believe that the players' activities during strategic time-outs need to be monitored very closely as messages can be exchanged. Strategic time-outs were introduced in 2010.
While other measures like restriction on the owners' movement near the dug-outs and a ban on mobile phones were put in place, time-outs didn't even find a mention.
What Dalmiya didn't mention was that the time-outs are huge revenue-earners. They generated nearly 30% of the advertisement revenue for the broadcasters this year. “For commercial reasons, the league cannot do without it. The BCCI can't think of removing it,” said a franchise official.
Each match has 600 seconds of strategic time-outs (four breaks of two-and-half-minutes each); minus the 40 seconds (10 seconds per time-out) that show countdown to viewers on big screen, it leaves 560 seconds for TV ads, which rake in Rs 2.94 crore per game. The sum goes up to R8.4 crore per game in the last four matches as the rate for each 10-second slot goes up from Rs 5.25 lakh to Rs 15 lakh.
As it is, Set Max is facing a revenue shortfall. It is supposed to pay Rs 8700 crore to BCCI over 10 years for exclusive rights to broadcast the league. In six years, it has been able to pay only Rs 4,095 crore and concerns are that it will fall short as it has to make over Rs 4600 crore in the next four years.
In fact, Set Max had to reduce its ad slot rates this year as it faced a 25% dip in 2012. “Considering the financial pressure the channel is under, we cannot afford to let go these seconds. It amounts to a huge loss in one go. BCCI should consider the price at which we bought the broadcasting rights. The revenue target for us is massive and the time period is very limited,” said a top official at Multi-Screen Media (MSM), which runs Set Max.
In the wake of that spot-fixing scandal in which three Royals players were caught, the police had specifically sought video footage of the strategic time-outs from matches these players featured in.