Cricket, Money… and spectators

The India-West Indies cricket series started today, amid a lot of conjecture and hype around Sourav Ganguly’s return, and Sachin Tendulkar’s batting position, not to speak of India’s preparation for the World Cup. In short, this was a match (and the entire series) that everybody was waiting for.

It turned out that the match would be telecast, “Live and Exclusive”, on Neo Sports, which, hold your breath, only gives out a CAS specific feed!! Maybe someone forgot to tell Neo Sports that many parts of India have yet to implement CAS, and it might be a good idea to telecast for the rest of the cable-TV population of India, who pay out of their pockets to see these matches too. Even the newspapers ads from Neo Sports only boast of a minuscule small-print, yes, decidedly minuscule, when you consider the small print meted out by the rest of the field, declaring that the feed would be CAS specific. It’s almost as if they don’t want their prospective viewers to watch their game of cricket!

But perhaps the buck stops, as it always does, with the BCCI. Yes, money is important. Yes, sponsors and telecast rights form a major portion of revenues collected by the Board. But what use is a match telecast that only a small fraction of viewers can watch? Even while being alert to the amount of money that they earn, should they not try to ensure that the maximum possible number of people can actually watch these matches?

Some would argue that under this logic only free-to-air channels should get telecast rights. But the point made by non-free-to-air channels is fair enough: namely, that free-to-air channels simply do not generate enough revenue from advertisements alone to sustain their business of telecasting matches. Indeed, major tournaments that are watched by the entire nation, such as the World Cup, are telecast by the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, in addition to the paid channels, of course with a payment to the “Exclusive” Channel.

This situation, anyway, is different. Neo Sports is a pay channel; only, it has chosen to telecast only for the CAS section of the population. It is not a case of affordability here: even those who are ready to pay the money, are unable to subscribe, because the technology is simply not there!!

Perhaps Neo Sports should wake up to the fact that not everything about India is Neo after all.

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