'Cricket league is not a circus to be called off'
Does the Indian Cricket League (ICL) announced by Subhash Chandra make business sense? The initial reaction by spokespersons of the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has been hostile.
Can Chandra and the Zee Group take on the world’s richest cricket board? Gurbir Singh spoke to Himanshu Mody, Head of Zee Sports and the man tipped to run the new ICL business, about these and other issues.
As a business proposition, how will the Indian Cricket League generate revenue?
Like the BCCI generates revenue from various fields — ground sponsorship, corporate branding of teams etc. We are also looking at corporate sponsors for the clubs we spoke of.
Is the ICL a kind of pressure tactic on the BCCI to give you the telecast rights for international cricket?
If the telecast rights are up for bidding again, Zee Sports will bid. The ICL league will however go on. This is not a ‘circus’ that will be called off like Kerry Packer did after the Australian Broadcasting Corporation gave Channel 9 the rights.
But the structure of your teams is unlikely to attract much interest and therefore there is little scope of high television viewership. A few international players and some budding cricketers have little mass appeal.
It will build up over time like English County Cricket. Earlier, during the India-Pakistan Friendship series, a cricket was attracting a 8.0 TVR or more. It has now steadily declined to a 2.5-4.0 TVR range.
For the ICL league, with good marketing it will not be difficult to get at least half the TVR, and therefore half the ad rates. 'Antakshari' as a television brand has been steadily built up since 1992. League cricket will similarly be built up as a long-term Essel Group property.
What corporate structure has been planned?
It is not a Zee property. Subhash Chandra has personally funded the venture along with IL&FS. A separate joint venture company with a separate management will be set up to run the clubs and league encounters with an initial start-up investment of around Rs 200 crore.
A number of BCCI officials, including Lalit Modi, have taken an antagonistic view of your new venture. What are the legal and other hurdles you face?
The Board has not taken an official view. These are the individual views of some members. The BCCI has only contracted 20 players. There are another 4.5 lakh cricket players out there who are not under any contract. They are a huge pool available to us.
Modi has said ICC permission is needed to contract overseas players. This is not true. They are under contract with their national cricket boards, not by the ICC. Some have said the BCCI can deny us the rights to cricket grounds. The BCCI does not run these grounds; local associations like the CCI runs the Braborne Stadium.
Whether you admit it or not, the BCCI sees you as a competition.
We cannot compete with the BCCI. They have an annual revenue of Rs 2,000 crore.
When do the encounters kick off?
After the monsoons. Each season will have 15-20 matches played over a four-week span.