Star may have to share IPL live feed with Doordarshan

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If the government has its way, the next season of the T20 cricket tournament Indian Premier League (IPL) will be available to viewers on state-run broadcaster Doordarshan.

The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry is working on a proposal to make IPL available on Doordarshan and has asked the sports ministry to weigh in on the matter, three people in the know said on condition of anonymity. No orders have been passed on the proposal yet.

The move will mean that Star India Pvt. Ltd, the official broadcaster of IPL for the next five seasons beginning in 2018, will have to share the live feed of the tournament with public broadcaster Prasar Bharati under the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007. Prasar Bharati runs Doordarshan and All India Radio.

Star India, in September, won the television, digital, Indian and global media rights to IPL for the next five seasons, paying Rs16,347.50 crore. Until 2017, Sony Pictures Networks held the television broadcasting rights of IPL for 10 years (since 2008).

“A proposal has been moved to make IPL a sporting event of national importance so that it can reach a wider audience through Doordarshan. The I&B ministry had recently asked the sports ministry to look into the proposal. No orders have been passed yet,” said one of the three people cited above.

According to the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007 (and a 2012 notification), all private broadcasters are required to share live broadcasting signals of sporting events of “national importance” with Prasar Bharati simultaneously, to enable the public broadcaster to re-transmit them on its terrestrial networks and direct-to-home (DTH) networks. However, in a recent verdict, the Supreme Court said Prasar Bharati cannot share the feed it gets from rights owners such as Star on Doordarshan channels that are carried by cable operators and private DTH platforms. For the sports feed that the public broadcaster gets from private channels, it is also entitled to 25% of the total TV advertising revenue realized by them while the remaining 75% remains with the broadcasting rights holder. “It is a window of opportunity for Doordarshan. Apart from IPL, there is a list of sporting events including football and certain test matches, being considered by the ministry to be made available on DD,” said a second person.

The I&B ministry and the sports ministry did not respond to e-mailed queries seeking comment. Shashi Shekhar Vempati, chief executive officer at Prasar Bharati declined to comment as did Star India chairman and chief executive Uday Shankar.

A media buyer at an ad agency said on condition of anonymity that the proposal, if carried through, will help IPL become a more lucrative property for advertisers as it will reach a wider audience. But a top executive at a sports channel, declining to be named, said: “If it happens, it will be a big blow for the broadcaster as it (Star) has already spent a lot on acquiring the IPL rights. Giving 25% of its ad revenue to DD will essentially mean that Star needs to increase its overall advertising revenue by 25%, which is a very tough job as advertisers, as it is, spend a lot of money on IPL.”

All official one-day internationals, Twenty20 and test matches played by the men’s cricket team, the semi-finals and finals of the men’s World Cup and the International Cricket Council Championship Trophy are designated cricketing events of national importance.

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