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Setback for Star as MIB mulls bringing IPL under ‘must share’ rule

MUMBAI: In a development that could have wider ramifications for the Indian Premier League (IPL) economics, the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) is considering bringing the cash-rich event under the ambit of events of national importance.

This will mean that the broadcast rights holder of the IPL, in this case, Star India, will have to share the feeds of the event with public broadcaster Doordarshan.

According to media reports, the MIB has mooted the proposal and has also asked the Sports ministry to weigh in on the matter.

So far, IPL was excluded from the events of national importance as it is a club based tournament.

Under the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act 2007, the MIB has listed Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, summer and Special Olympics, Paralympics, along with certain cricket, football, hockey and tennis events.

In cricket, the ministry has notified all official One-Day and Twenty-20 matches played by the Indian Men’s Cricket Team and such Test matches as are considered to be of high public interest as events of national importance.

The semi-finals and finals of Men’s World Cup and International Cricket Council Championship Trophy are part of the events that have to be shared with DD.

In Hockey, World Cup (all matches featuring India, semi-finals, and finals), Champions Trophy (all matches featuring India and finals) and Indira Gandhi Gold Cup (women semi-finals and finals) are part of events of national importance.

In football, the ministry has named the World Cup (opening match, semi-finals, and finals), Asia Cup (all matches in which Indian team plays, semi-finals and finals) and Santosh Trophy (semi-finals and finals) as important events.

As far as Tennis is concerned, Davis Cup, Grand Slam tournaments (Men’s and Women’s Singles finals have been designated as events of national importance.

The rights holder of these events will have to share the feeds of these events with DD. The ad revenue generated from the telecast of these events on DD is shared between the rights holder and the pubcaster in the ratio of 75:25.

The MIB move, if it goes through, will have a devastating impact on the IPL economics. One it will rob Star of the exclusivity factor that is one of the key factors in monetising the rights through advertisement and subscription. This will have a cascading effect on the value of the IPL rights for which Star has paid a whopping Rs 16,347.5 crore for five years till 2022.

On an earlier occasion, Star India had claimed that the sharing of live feed with cable operators through Doordarshan has resulted in a subscription loss of Rs 970 crore (Rs 9.7 billion) and a loss of advertising revenue to the extent of Rs 245 crore (Rs 2.45 billion) since 2007.

While the Supreme Court had recently held that the events of national importance that are shared with DD under the Sports Act cannot be transmitted on the private cable, DTH, HITS, and IPTV platforms there is always the possibility of distributors indulging in piracy to escape the ruling.

Ever since the SC passed that order, DD has directed private DTH and cable TV to block DD National when the events of national importance are being aired. DD can only transmit the matches on its terrestrial and free DTH platform Freedish.

There is also a possibility of the move getting caught in legal crosshairs as most of the tournaments designated as events of national importance involve Indian team or an Indian representation. IPL, on the other hand, is a club tournament.

However, the Sports Act 2007 empowers the central government to take measures, as it deems fit or expedient, by way of issuing Guidelines for mandatory sharing of broadcasting signals with Prasar Bharati relating to sporting events of national importance.